7th February 2021 was a doomsday for the Raini, a small village on the foothill of Himalaya in Chomoli district, Uttarakhand state, India. In the early morning, a flash flood swept away everything people, cattle, trees turning a lively village into swamps of debris just in the split of seconds.
The underway 13.2 MW Rishiganga hydroelectric project near Raini village was completely washed away.
The Tapovan-Vishnugad hydro project on the river Dhauli-Ganga has extensively damaged. It has also ravaged Vishnuprayag village near the town of Joshimatha. At least 5 bridges are badly affected by the force of surging water, cutting access to numbers of villages in the area. Many labourers got trapped inside the Topovan tunnel as the water came rushing in. The flood has likely killed around 100-150 people.
The cause of this flood is an abrupt burst of a portion of Nandadevi glacier due to the continuous rise of temperature in the Himalayan ecosystem. The broken glacier led to the sudden rise of water level in Rishiganga River, triggering the flash flood. But the flood shaped massive due to the presence of glacier fragments and rock sediments along with water. While flowing downstream the ice started melting and multiplied the force of water. Thus the water flowed violently scooping through the valley with great force turning it into debris flow.
The Raini flash flood is just another alarm to warn of the vulnerability of the Himalayan region. In 2013 Kedarnath had witnessed the devastating floods and landslide claiming lives in mass. An unusual amount of rainfall led to the melting of the Chorabari glacier and the subsequent eruption of Mandakini River. A flash flood came down upon the overflowing banks of Chorabari Lake, carrying a huge amount of slit and rocks destroying lives, houses and everything that came it’s way.
The Himalayan region is the most sensitive global warming hot spot and the impact is intensifying for two decades. Air temperature has risen to 2 degrees Fahrenheit, Glacier warming and snow melting is accelerating. These factors have subsumed to generate erratic weather pattern instigating more natural disasters in the existing time.
Himalaya is the source of perennial rivers. Its glaciers feed ten of the world’s most important river system including Gangas, Indus, Yellow, Mekong and Irrawaddy. The entire population in the Indo-Gangetic plain including 8 neighbouring countries depends directly or indirectly on these rivers.
Climate change has harshly influenced the precipitation over the Himalaya as well as the shrinking glaciers are drying the catchment area of the rivers. Thus the runoff patterns of rivers are affecting and the entire North Asia region is bearing the brunt.
Besides that, the fragile landscape of the Himalayan region is highly susceptible to natural hazards like landfall. Excessive construction of dams, Highways, big infrastructure, industrialization, also commercial and residential settlements along the river banks have dramatically exacerbated the climate crisis.
Despite solemn forewarning from environmentalists, scientists, geologists the hydel projects back to back are underway. Blasts of hills are steadfast. Unplanned and haphazard construction, mismanagement of tourism and related activities including intensive mining in the fragile ecosystem are some of the reason that had manifold the damage. It seems that as if no one is concerned about preserving the majestic mountain, It’s transient landscape and its rare ecology. Only a few hill communities are worried about the withering of the Himalaya but their cry falls on deaf ears.
There is a frequent outbreak of low and high dramatic disasters which are more or less human-induced. Breaking of the glacier in the month of February when the ice gets accumulated is a threatening environmental issue, needs immediate potential action. The entire Himalayan landscape is getting affected. The only answer to this threatening issue is preserving the mountain by afforest-ration and shunning excess squandering of its natural resources.
The irony is the origin of Chipko movement the Raini village is now the worst victim of the climate crisis. In 1974 the women of Raini village and Chomoli district had taken a milestone approach to preserve nature by initializing Chipko movement. Long before they have keenly perceived and warned the grevious imperils of the ecological collapse in Himalaya. But over time we have been ignored the pith of their prophecy.
Let’s draw a new vision to save Himalaya because Nature doesn’t owe us but we humans owe to nature.