ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Force Multipliers of Disasters in Uttarakhand

While Uttarakhand is vulnerable to disasters, climate change is increasing these vulnerabilities. Major human interventions like hydropower projects and highways implemented without an informed or democratic decision-making process act as force multipliers during such disasters. The violations of legal and other prudent norms in their implementation further increase the damages. The absence of necessary monitoring, early warning systems and the overall disaster management system add another layer of damages during the disasters. The lack of the ability to learn lessons from disasters and lack of any accountability ensure the perpetuation of the situation.


Uttarakhand is no stranger to disasters. But the flood disaster that Chamoli district experienced on the morning of 7 February 2021 was unusual in many respects besides it being winter when the disaster happened. A massive brown flood with a huge plume of dust was seen first upstream of Reni village, following a loud bang that people heard. Reni, ironically, is the birthplace of the famous Chipko movement of the 1970s. The flood was seen suddenly travelling down the Rishiganga river at a menacing speed of up to 30 metre (m) per second, destroying everything in its way. It was carrying a lot of debris, including stones and boulders. It destroyed a barrage and the existing 13.2 MW Rishiganga hydropower project, several houses along the banks of the river, blew away several people and gra­zing animals on the riverbed, before its confluence with the Dhauliganga river.

Along the Dhauliganga, the flood des­troyed a bridge and then the barrage of the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric project (HEP) funded by the Asian Development Bank that was under construction since 2005, while also entering into the tunnels of the project. It was in this area that the maximum human lives were lost. Further downstream, it des­troyed another bridge (a total of five bridges were destroyed).

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Updated On : 6th Mar, 2021
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