Management of Cloudburst Disaster

Some of the steps that can help in reducing the damage to life and property at the occurrence of cloudburst are given below:

Delineation of eco-sensitive zones based on scientific and reliable data. The maximum and minimum of water in the rivers should be ascertained and the people should be made aware about the possible discharge of the major and minor rivers of the region.

Better and effective system of weather forecasting and dissemination of weather related information. Doppler-radars should be deployed by the Meteorological Department in the upper reaches of the Himalayan rivers to make advance weather forecasting for events like cloudburst. Moreover, there should be an integrated Himalayan Meteorology Programme that will enhance prediction capabilities in the relevant hilly states.

Proper site selection and planning of the rural and urban settlements. There should be a comprehensive renewal and relook at construction techniques of roads, houses and the methods employed for the development of infrastructure. Blasting which is done for the construction of dams and roads weaken the hills and shakes the roots of the trees. Such blasting should be stopped or minimized.

Encroachment of river beds by buildings, and blasting of mountains to build National Highways are making hill states more susceptible to disasters. These activities should be done keeping in mind the ecological principles. Development of minor hydro-electricity projects, instead of big dams should be preferred in development and planning. There should be strict regulation of cultural (religious) and aesthetic tourism in the fragile ecosystems of the young folded mountains, like the Himalayas. The tourism industry need to be converted into eco-tourism to avert the destruction and catastrophe like that of Kedarnath (2013) Uttarakhand.

There is an urgent need to establish the Bhagirathi-Alaknanda Development Authority on the pattern of Damodar Valley Corporation. Uncontrolled jams, and increased pollution levels play havoc with the environment in the hills. They should be checked and mitigated. There should be state-level and district level Disaster Management and Mitigation Centres to combat the humongous natural calamity, like that of the Himalayan Tsunami of 16th June -2013.

Mushrooming of resorts, motels, restaurant, etc. should be stopped in the ecologically sensitive areas as these activities involve huge deforestation and mining which are directly or indirectly responsible for soil erosion, landslides, loss of ground water, and change in the courses of rivers. Cloudburst have their worst effects on roads, buildings, rural and urban settlements located along the banks of rivers, especially along the steep banks. Human resource and physical infrastructure needed to tackle natural disaster, should be strengthened. Moreover, there should credible mechanisms for ensuring compliance with environmental regulations.

Relief operations too need to be ramped to a comparable level of the Himalayan Tsunami, of 16th June 2013. There should be no discrimination while providing relief and rehabilitation measures. Calls from influential people and politicians should not be entertained by the persons engaged in rescue operation. The post cloudburst should include quick action of rescue of stranded alive people buried under thick cover of debris, regolith and boulders to evacuate them to safer places. Immediate medical help should be provided to survivors. Rescue and evacuation of stranded alive people, recovery and rehabilitation of the affected people also need to be done at war footing.

Tourism to a great extent contributes to excessive and unchecked development around shrines. In fact, most religious places are littered with make-ship shops, hotels, and dhabas that come up as temporary shelters for quick commerce, but because of their endorsement by local religious authorities, become ‘regularized’. The state government should take strict and effective action against such encroachment. In the post-cloudburst operation control of epidemics in the low lying areas is required. In the waterlogged areas diseases like malaria, chikungunya, and dengue may be prevented by anti-malaria sprays, fumigation against mosquitoes and provisions of chlorine bottled water to the flood affected people.

The Sant Samaj (religious community) should work as a pressure group to check the construction of multistory buildings, hotels, motels, sarais, and dhramshalas in the eco-sensitive areas. In the cloudburst affected areas water supply, electric poles and telecommunication systems need to be restored at a priority basis. The sensitivity to environment and ecology at a time of global warming is both a necessity against disaster and a new way to forge a different, less destructive form of development. Unfortunately, the state of Uttarakhand has not even defined minimum environmental flows for rivers. Such laxity is bound to result into large scale destruction and disasters. If these steps are taken together, the consequent damage to the ecology life and property from natural calamities like cloudburst may be minimized appreciably.

Other Environmental Disasters

  • The Great Smog in London in 1952.
  • Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which killed 90,000 -166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day.
  • Sandoz chemical spill into the Rhine River (1986).
  • Decline of vultures in India due to Diclofenac leading to increased incidence of rabies.
Environment and Ecology