Is Himachal prepared for another tragedy after dealing with torrential rain and flash floods?
In the wake of the unrelenting rains and landslides that have killed 328 people in Himachal Pradesh during the monsoon season, a report by India Today has sparked worries about the possibility of additional catastrophe. The intense rains have raised groundwater levels, turning the earth beneath populated areas into muck, which experts warn could lead to more landslides.
According to state official data, there have already been 180 instances of landslides and flash floods in Himachal Pradesh. These calamities are mostly due to an increase in rainfall that was measured at 157%. Landslides and soil erosion have resulted from the Himalayan mountains' inability to absorb the extra water through their soil and plants.
By rising water levels and flooding river banks, unreliable slope cutting and debris disposal into the Beas and Sutlej rivers during road widening operations have further contributed to the situation. House collapses and landslides have been caused by unchecked construction activities that violate construction laws in cities like Shimla, Dharamshala, Manali, and Mandi. The Himachal High Court building, which has 11 stories and is much taller than the National Green Tribunal's suggested maximum of 2.5 storeys, is a prominent example of this.
The geological layers in the area have been further damaged by blasting operations for the construction of hydropower projects and tunnel digging for roadways and power projects.
Professor ON Bhargwa, a famous geologist, claims that the Himachal calamity is more human-made than natural. He contends that concrete constructions along riverbanks impede normal seepage processes, causing flooding and changing the path of rivers. For instance, the River Beas altered its course during the most recent floods in a number of locations in the Himachal Pradesh districts of Kullu and Mandi.
Professor Bhargwa further attributes the catastrophe to the unscientific expansion of roads and the dumping of rubbish into rivers. He observes that the construction of roads and hydroelectric projects has made the flooding of the Himalayan rivers, which once occurred only when the snow melted, unpredictable. According to projections from the Union Ministry of Environmental Sciences, temperatures in the Hindu Kush Himalayas are rising, which is resulting in receding glaciers and dwindling snowlines.
In Himachal Pradesh, the cost of the infrastructure damage is estimated at Rs 7,000 crore. Together with hundreds of drinking water systems and power supply connections, more than 1,400 highways are also impacted. In several sections of the state, roadblocks have resulted in a shortage of necessities like fuel, vegetables, milk, and bread. Landslides have disrupted state transportation buses on almost 2,100 routes, including the Chandigarh-Manali National Highway, and left citizens stuck on an estimated 950 roads.