2013 North India floods

Also known as the 2013 Uttarakhand floods

Introduction

The 2013 North India floods, popularly known as the Uttarakhand floods of 2013, erupted in June 2013, is considered as the country's worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. A multi-day cloudburst centred on the the North Indian state of Uttarakhand caused the devastating floods, which were accompanied by landslides. Though some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh experienced the flood, some regions of Western Nepal, and some parts of Western Tibet also experienced heavy rainfall, over 95% of the casualties occurred in Uttarakhand.

Fatalities

5748 were dead with the flood affecting 4200 villages.

Man-made Reasons for the floods

Man-made reasons for floods can be generalised (such as deforestation) but here we look at the localised issues leading to it.


Roads destabilising mountains


The landforms of the Uttarakhand region has been tampered with to build roads. A proof of this is that the number of vehicles registered in the state rose from 83,000 in 2005-06 to nearly 180,000 in 2012-13. This tempering leads to landslides which in-turn leads to floods.


Threat from dams


The overexploitation of hydroelectricity has led to the rampant construction of dams, along with the afore mentioned case of the construction of roads. In building these projects the key tributaries would be modified—through diversion to tunnels or reservoirs—to such an extent that 80 per cent of the Bhagirathi and 65 per cent of the Alaknanda could be “affected”. As much as 90 per cent of the other smaller tributaries could be “affected” the same way.

Uttarakhand kedarnath flood 2013.mp4

Historical significance of disaster-struck places

Uttarakhand is a very important Hindu pilgrimage site and receives a very large number of pilgrims during the months of June and July. The districts Chamoli, Pithoragarh, Rudraprayag, and Uttarkashi were the worst affected. The Badrinath temple at Badrinath in Chamoli, the Kedarnath temple at Kedarnath in Rudraprayag and the Yamunotri and the Gangotri temples in Uttarkashi (together known as the Chota Char Dham) are the pilgrimage sites attracting a lot of pilgrims. These temples have rich histories. One such historical significance is that the Kedarnath temple is believed to have been constructed in the 8th century AD, when Adi Shankara visited. The present structure is on a site adjacent to where Pandavas are believed to have built the temple.


It is due to the presence of this pilgrimage circuit that not only did the floods affect local residents and kill 934 of them, but its destruction on the roads and bridges left about 100,000 pilgrims and tourists trapped in the valleys leading to three of the four Hindu Chota Char Dham pilgrimage sites.

Government Initiatives

  • Deployment of aircraft to evacuate thousands stranded.
  • Indian Railways pitching in with free travel to enable those rescued to reach their hometowns.
  • Deployment of heavylift Mi-26 helicopters by the Indian Air Force to transport fuel and heavy equipment required by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to clear roads closed due to landslide, along with the activation of landing grounds at Dharasu and Gaucher and setting up of an airbridge to evacuate stranded persons.
  • Engagement in search, rescue and relief efforts by the personnel of the Sashastra Seema Bal, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Disaster Relief Force, BRO, besides the army.
  • Efforts to operationalise 207 mobile towers of 739 such installations in the three affected districts of Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi.
  • Setting up of aircraft refuelling centres by the Petroleum Ministry at Rampur, Shimla and Gaucher and efforts to make available LPG cylinders to people in affected areas.

Steps taken by the local communities

  • The three community radios in the region- Kumaon Vani (Mukteshwar), Henvalvani (Chamba Valley) and Mandakini Ki Awaz (Rudraprayag) have been broadcasting live programmes that inform and sensitize communities and tried to reach all flood-affected families.
  • Many NGOs that ran on monetary donations made huge progress in relief work. Some of them and their functions are as follows:
(i) Doctors For You, an organisation with doctors who provide aid during crisis situations is working extensively, as the only healthcare provider on the ground in Uttarakhand. They are working on Primary Health Care (general health checkups and supply of medicines) , Reproductive Health Care Services (ANC checkups, supply of clean delivery kits, sanitary kits, medicines related to reproductive health and others), psychosocial support and initial assessment of the current situation.

(ii) Pragya has launched a relief operation for the victims of the flashflood in Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh, Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh districts in Uttarakhand.