Cloudburst Calamity in Uttarakhand

HUGE damage has been caused by the cloudburst in the ghat region on 1 July and the rising river waters. 5 people were killed, 2 are missing, and a dozen shops and buildings were either badly damaged or washed away in the river. The ghat is 43 km from the headquarters of Chamoli district. While the single narrow road from Nandprayag to the ghat was never in good condition, it has now become particularly filled with holes and stones following the disaster.

The access road to Jakhni, a village of 150 families on the other side has been totally destroyed. The Nandakini is still flooded. Debris-filled shops and buildings half-hanging in the river and half washed away tell the tale of the destruction. The rivers in spate and the homes with their backyards practically opening on to the river clearly indicate that rising water, rain or cloudbursts can again pose a grave danger. Though the CM Harish Rawat, Congress MLA and leader of opposition have visited the ghat, there is no visible improvement in the conditions. The wilting vegetables in the ghat bazaar are indicative of the enormous shortage of food, vegetables, and essential goods in the coming days if the road is not opened soon. Medical services have been badly affected by the lack of road access. There is a primary health centre in the ghat with an allopathic doctor, an ayurvedic doctor and a pharmacist but this is not adequate as several patients need to be referred to Dehradun for treatment.

The administrative machinery is moves at an extremely slow pace which even a disaster of such impact has failed to change. On 4 July, Garhwal Commissioner issued a statement that it would take 20 days to complete the road. A couple of days later Chamoli stated that it would take 7 days. The PWD does not appear bothered as the political leaders travel by helicopter and not road.

After the 2013 disaster, embankments had to be built as the ghat had been eroded by the flooding rivers. The irrigation department started building embankments, but on the side where there was no habitation. When the people agitated, they were assured that embankments on the inhabited side would be built within 15 days. Even after 6 months the embankmets were not built. Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha leader and ghat resident Mohan Singh has filed a petition in the Chamoli police station demanding a case to be registered under section 188 against the supervising engineer and junior engineer of the irrigation department. Com. Bhoopal Singh Rawat informed that the Chamoli DM had twice directed the supervising engineer of the irrigation department to construct the embankment but still it was not done. The Uttarakhand government as always appears unfazed by disasters and unwilling to adopt any measures to prevent them in future.