By Bhuvi M
More than a year has passed by when flash flood drowned the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. It was the after effect of handful of greedy over public & ecological interests. Traversing backwards in memory here is spine chilling account:
Cloud bursts resulting in flash floods and landslides in Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gaurikund area of Uttarakhand state of India on 15th to 17th June 2013. Thousands of people have got hurt, pilgrims stranded, hundreds have lost their lives, residents rendered homeless, thousands missing. The means of livelihoods have been lost and there has been massive destruction to infrastructure and property. Otherwise one of the less developed states of country, such enormity of destruction pushes it ten times backward on the route of development. The pictures depict many of them have lost their life savings. For them standing up and let their life moving ahead will be an uphill task. Bigger chunk of revenue of this Himalayan state comes from tourists, pilgrims, orchards and forest produce. For lots of people staying in northern plains of India; locales in Uttarakhand & Himachal are weekend unwinding destinations.
We too had planned for a short trip to a quaint destination up hills very same weekend when the disaster struck. Mountains are enticing in rains with clouds and mist all over. It was nice to beat Delhi’s heat and eye soothing watching drenched greens. Scary was excessive of rains and dark clouds hovering very low on the mountains. One night stay at a cottage at Nathuakhan, a little ahead of Nainital in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand was both pleasant and scary.
We reached the destination a couple of hours late owing to en-route traffic jam. It had been raining in off and on for a couple of days there. As soon as we reached, heavy downpour started. We walked down in rain to meet a friend and see an ancient temple in the village. Returning to the cottage it was early set of evening and mist hovering all over the valley. It rained heavily all through the night. The wind blowing through the creeks sounded scary. On Sunday morning we saw dark clouds hovering too low on the mountains on north western side (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Uttarkashi falls on the this direction from Nainital). It was raining incessantly. Our plan was to stay, enjoy and leave around lunch time. Seeing the situation we decided to leave just after breakfast. It was clear if it continued raining for next twelve hours flash flood and land slide can happen and we may pose risk. While returning it continued raining only to stop intermittently. We came across a number of rivulets gushing down the mountains. A tributary of Ramganga which was dry a day back was full of water. The decision of leaving early was a wise one. All through the route we faced heavy down pour. Once returned, realized the catastrophe that had happened in Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gaurikund of Garhwal region. We still got a chance to get out of the area. Anyone could have been trapped in this calamity. It sends chills up the spine. Though none I know personally is stuck up in the situation but I’m a frequent traveler in the area. I was glued to news for updates and my heart bled for all those facing it.
Such event of cloud burst was natural but the effect of disaster was man made. Un-checked way of construction, mining, deforestation and interfering with nature had taken its toll. Personal greed of construction, mining mafia with political nexus had not paid any attention to save the eco-sensitive zones in hills. This flash flood swiping away buildings and villages was the result of man exploiting nature. Precious lives were lost and properties damaged. A war footing rescue was called for in inaccessible hilly terrain. National Disaster Response Force, Army, Air Force, ITBP and locals were engaged in rescue operation. The people who had survived the fury of nature had nightmares to narrate. Heart wrenching tales & pictures emerged with time. What was hampering the operation was tough terrain, at times rough weather, unchecked number of pilgrims & tourists uphills, scattered population all over the area.
This is not the only terrain where man has played with nature. Look around and each place has the same story to tell. Another serial loss waiting to happen.
Note: Day 4, Writing 101: Serially Lost by the Daily Post