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Uttarakhand Cloudburst Case Study

Garhwal Himalaya is considered adobe of Gods: this beautiful and difficult terrain has numerous majestic peaks like Shivling, Bhagirathi, Thalay Sagar, Nanda Devi, and spiritual sites like Tapovan. Hindus from all corners of India visit four very important holy pilgrimage sites: Gangotri (origin of river Ganga/Bhagirathi), Yamunotri (origin of river Yamuna), Badrinath (God Vishnu’s temple at banks of Alaknanda river), and Kedarnath (God Shiva’s temple at banks of Mandakini river and northernmost of 12 Jyotirlingas). This journey is popularly known as Chota Char Dham yatra, literally translated as "minor four God’s adobe pilgrimage circuit" (it draws its name from original Char Dham yatra consisting of Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram temples in four corners of India). June is peak month of Chota Char Dham pilgrimage for two reasons: it is summer vacation time in most of north India, and rain starts in Garhwal by end of June or early July. During the peak pilgrimage season, from 14 - 17 June 2013 (peaking on 16th), the region received unexpectedly heavy rain, about 375% more than normal, causing unprecedented magnitude of death and destruction, especially in Kedarnath (site of Destroyer God Shiva) due to cloud burst causing a glacial lake burst and flash flood downstream. In this still unfolding tragedy, more than thousand people died, many thousands still missing, several villages completely destroyed, hundreds of villages rendered inaccessible, Crores of rupees worth of infrastructure and property lost. As it is now monsoon season in the region, it will not only make rehabilitation difficult, but also cause its own annual quota of destruction and loss of life. I think the real toll of Kedarnath disaster / tragedy will be known only after monsoon ends, and hopefully rehabilitation/reconstruction will be completed before winter sets in Garhwal, Uttarakhand.

I have trekked in Gangotri and Kedarnath region a few times and have seen it being transformed quite a bit, for better or worse, in last 8 years. It has been painful for me to read and watch the news. Tragic loss of life and destruction was saddening and the magnitude was shocking. My plan to 10-days trek to Satopanth Tal and Swargarohini near Badrinath starting 10th June had fizzled out due to organization troubles (before flood news broke). So in a way I felt lucky, but thought that I would have been definitely among those stuck or might have been hurt and even perished was sobering, making it not some distant tragedy but rather something too close for comfort. I was hooked to news: reading and watching whatever being dished out. TV coverage was 24x7, and sadly it was mostly sensational, designed to grab eyeballs for high TRP. Politicians of all colors and hues were busy with their controversies and blame game. I was tired of sensational breaking news and typical blaming the government. I wished for something meaningful and more informative. I looked for explanations about what actually happened that caused something of such magnitude. Thankfully now at least some explanations are out there on internet. In this blog post, I attempt to put it all together: what I felt and thought as news and visuals poured in, explanation that I have learned, and my opinion on development vs. environment debate.

Events

News of heavy continuous rain and rising water level in Bhagirathi river started flooding Uttarkashi facebook group on 16 June. There were several reports of floods and landslides. I wasn’t surprised: since as early as 11 June, warnings of 4 days of heavy rain starting on 14 June have been floating in trekking groups (trekkers keep tab on weather of a region that they are about to trek); several weather websites were showing four days of heavy rain and thunderstorms followed by days of clouds/rains. And when it rains heavily in that region, landslides and flood follow.

All that certainly wouldn’t have been unusual post-monsoon. I was in that area in August/September in 2010 and 2012, and experienced post-monsoon destruction first hand. In 2012 August, there were flash flood, landslides, and severe loss of property and life in Gangotri - Uttarkashi region. We had to trek several kilometers to avoid roads blocked by landslides, and upon reaching Gangotri, we found town deserted and locked down instead of teeming with pilgrims. In August 2010, while going for Auden's Col and Mayali Pass trek, we endured, in an army truck, tens of Kilometers of washed away road to Gangotri that had just opened-up. And when we reached there, we learned several pilgrims were stuck there for more than a week. Same story when we descended to Kedarnath at the end of our trek: people stuck in Gaurikund due to roads washed away or landslides for almost two weeks. I had to trek around three kilometers on roads blocked by landslide before I could board a jeep that had come to deliver newspaper to Kedarnath. Sadly these experiences have made me accustomed to such news from that region.

But by end of 16 June, there were videos of buildings falling into Bhagirathi. By 17 June, these videos and reports were widespread. I have seen damaged buildings previous year, and also that most of these mult-floors buildings are standing on four pillars raised on river bank. But this time, magnitude was alarming. On 17 June, there were several videos of Ganga flow touching neck of the iconic Shiva temple near Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh. Typically at this time of year, Ganga flows beneath the platform of the  statue, which means overflow of around 15 ft! That was a hell lot of water.

By 18th, Yamuna has crossed danger mark in Delhi, and estimates that 60,000 people were stranded in Uttarakhand. Uttarkashi was not the only district affected. By 19th, it became clear that Kedarnath in Rudraprayag district was at the epicenter of nature’s devastating fury. In Chamoli district, Badrinath, and Govindghat (a town on NH58 20 km before Badrinath filled with Sikh pilgrims visiting Hemkund Sahib and tourists visiting valley of flowers) were gravely affected. Hell has broken loose in the adobe of Gods. Whole Garhwal was facing unprecedented tragedy.

I was shocked seeing photographs of the Kedarnath temple town almost totally destroyed with huge boulders littered around. Few kilometers down, Rambada hamlet didn’t exist anymore. I shuddered with the thought that anyone who was caught in Kedarnath area at that fateful time stood absolutely no chance. Imagine the force with which Mandakini would have been gushing that almost annihilated the whole town and brought such huge boulders from up the mountain! There were reports of 4-6 ft of slush inside Kedarnath temple (temple’s back is towards the mountain slopes from where water flowed, which means slush came when backwater from town entered the temple, and the temple is on a 3ft high platform). There were murmurs on facebook and other groups of dead bodies buried in the slush inside the temple, littered in the temple town and on the trail all the way 14 km down to Gauri Kund. At peak pilgrimage season, around 10,000 people visit Kedarnath everyday. Considering similar number of people staying overnight at Gaurikund before taking up trek to Kedarnath, I can’t fathom how the place would have looked after this tragedy, and how many died. Anyone coming out alive of it is extremely lucky, or depending upon perspective, extremely unlucky to live rest of his/her life with horrific intimate memory of the loss of their loved ones.

Reaction

After disbelief and shock, my first reaction was anger: if news of 4 days of heavy rain starting 14th June has been floating around at least 3 days in advance, why administration did not stop Chota Char Dham Yatra and evacuated pilgrims (later, there has been reports of blame game between Meteorological department and administration). But slowly, it dawn on me that I would have certainly abandoned idea of a trek in such weather; but if I was sheltered in a concrete building in Kedarnath, I would have considered it safe. Yes, trek between Gaurikund and Kedarnath would have been a pain in such a rain, but I wouldn’t have imagined that a cloud/lake-ful of water, and along with tons of boulders, would be gushing down at me. Who could have imagined that? Warning of heavy rain, yes, but 375% more than normal? And along with it, a lake burst. At least, my imagination would not have stretched that far. And I am not naive, I have been on treks where we have to be aware and think about severe weather eventualities. It wouldn’t be fair to blame administration: magnitude was truly unimaginable! That too in pre-monsoon season.

Then my thoughts turned towards what I could do: I felt quite agitated on 18th. In early June, I had abandoned my plan for a trek from Badrinath to Satopanth Tal, but later I had signed-up for a trek to Pin-Parvati pass in Kullu and Spiti valley in Himanchal Pradesh, and I had a ticket to Delhi for 20th June. I soon realized that with roads washed away, it will take 5-7 days for someone like me to reach affected area. And with my limited abilities, I will be a liability and most probably needed to be evacuated. This situation was different from, say, an earthquake or tsunami. It was not a situation where the only task was to rehabilitate and care for inhabitants. In this case, inhabitants have to be taken care of and also a very large number of pilgrims/tourists have to be rescued and sent home. Only when these visitors are sent back to their homes, inhabitants will be able to get undivided attention. I figured that, even if it is not satisfactory, the best I could do was to contribute material and money to NGOs and organizations that are active there. I think this will be an ongoing effort at least till the end of monsoon. Since I couldn't do much, I finally decided that I would attempt Pin-Parvati as planned unless weather turns bad (Kinnaur was facing flood like Uttarakhand, but weather in Manali, Parvati and Spit valley seems to be holding with not so bad forecasts for the region for next ten days).

On 19th, it was still not clear what exactly caused it. There were rumors that cloud burst caused breach in Vasuki Tal, which is around 8km from Kedarnath, and that caused all this mayhem (days later I would discover several newsreports speculating the same). For me, it was a bit hard to believe. When I visited it in 2010, the climb from Vasuki Tal to Vasuki Top was quite steep and of significant height. I don’t remember now exactly how the exit of the lake into a stream was, but Vasuki Tal basin is quite big. Also, Vasuki Tal is south-west of the Kedarnath temple, and if I remember correctly, the stream from it meets Mandakini river somewhere after the Kedarnath town. From the photos, it appeared that flood came from north of the temple, probably from where Mandakini originates.

Meanwhile, TV coverage has been relentlessly going on 24x7 for a couple of days. While reports on the extent of damage and rescue and helplines were useful, but along with that, quite substantial amount of nonsense and sensation was also being dished out. In that media frenzy all around, my friends were worried about my Pin-Parvati plan. Despite knowing that Himalaya range is 2,400 km long, and not all of it flooded at that very moment, I confess that I had some moments of self doubt. There is always some amount of risk in mountain, I argued that I can always return if weather forecast or weather turns bad. I thought that hopefully there would be more info on what caused it by the time I returned.

Cause

I completed my trek and returned to Bangalore on 3 July. By that time, stories of traumatizinghorrifying ordeals that survivors endured were starting to come out. I also found couple of blog posts by Dave Petley, Geography professor at Durham University, UK, reconstructing events based on satellite data and eyewitness accounts (also a news report based on those blog posts).

Mandakini originates from Chorabari glacier, which recorded 315mm rainfall on 15-16 June (not yet clear if it was a sudden cloud burst). That kind of rain usually happens at the peak of monsoon in July/August and not in mid June, when there is still snow melting on the ground. Heavy rainfall and melting snow are known to cause landslides. Several shallow landslides are visible in photos and satellite images, but there was a major landslide above the glacier (with 1200m length, 75m width and an altitude difference of 500m from crown to channel). That landslide quickly accumulated sediment and water, and highly energetic debris flow ran along the margin of the glacier and swept into the temple town around 6:15pm on 16th June. Velocities were so high that it went on to strike Rambada almost instantly.

Another serious trouble was developing over the night at the Chorabari Lake (actually a Tarn) at the western snout of the Charobari Glacier. In the morning of 17th June, rainfall and snowmelt caused catastrophic burst in the terminal moraine barrier releasing all of the impounded water. This water along with moraine and glacial sediments including large boulders swept down and picked debris on the way. This very energetic and large debris flow hit Kedarnath with hill-load of boulders and lake-ful of ice cold water.

Both these high velocity waves of water and debris caused unbelievable devastation and heart wrenching deaths. I think no matter how much I try, it will never sink into me. This is absolutely unbelievable, unimaginable horror.

Debate

Rain, cloud burst, lake outburst are natural phenomenon, but I think resulting destruction of such a magnitude is man-made up to quite an extent. There has been several article voicing issues of ecologically fragile Uttarakhand hills being turned into pilgrimage tourist spots, hosting 20 million pilgrims per years (almost double of its population), manifold increase in vehicles, ongoing hill blasting for building roads and controversial dams, soil erosion, unregulated construction. Several of these concerns were raised in 2009 CAG Report.

Anyone who has travelled in the region over the years can tell that there are more hotels, more shops, more tourists, and more garbage. I have heard from several people who visited the four pilgrimage sites after a gap of a decade or more that hotels and vehicles have increased manifolds. Most of these multistory hotels are built on the sides of winding roads by raising four pillars on the slope of the hill and often right on the river bank. These have looked scary to me, and now we know what flood can do to them. Number of dams and power plants have definitely gone up several folds in last decade. Some of these developments is desirable, but it seems that, at the very least, most of it is unplanned and unregulated.

The other side of argument is that people on the hills have the right to develop infrastructure: they need roads, hospitals, and schools. We enjoy all of these on plains, how can we deny them the same? Of course, more and better roads bring in pilgrims and tourists, and along with them come more jobs, more businesses, and need for more hotels and other related infrastructure. Mountain life is already hard, how can we deny people living there their right to livelihood and being wealthy?

And then there is third side of argument: how can we deny pilgrims the right to visit holy places of their faith?

I don’t know where the right balance is, but it is obvious that we have gone too far and hills can’t take it anymore. If we don’t correct it, nature will, in its own way, and we at least now know how tragic that can be. Let the touchstone of development be what inhabitants need rather than how to bring in more pilgrims. Let's develop other sources of income than tourism. We don’t have dearth of environmentalists and experts who can define parameters of sustainable development. Let’s grow within those parameters, let’s follow regulations, let’s not build building next to rivers and create some buffer zone. Let’s at least take action based on 2009 CAG report. If infrastructure is within those parameters, I guess it wouldn't be as easy as it is today for anyone and everyone to go on pilgrimage. Right to pilgrimage is fine, but who has granted the right for it to be easy. It was not always this easy. Several places like Kailash – Mansarovar and Amarnath are not easy even today. Let pilgrims figure out whether their faith is strong enough to make them trek to these holy sites. And if it is not, let them discover wisdom of God being within themselves and others. Let’s live without violating limits of nature.

I am not sure if we and our government will learn our lessons from this grave tragedy. I sincerely hope that we do, and assimilate that old saying in Himalayas: mountains respect your life as long as you respect their dignity and majesty.

UPDATE: Another scientific analysis piece analyzing what caused Kedarnath tragedy

By Mohak Rana, NMIMS, School of Law, Mumbai

‘Editor’s Note: Disaster or catastrophe or any such accident is inevitable. Almost all the nations witness such misfortune. Therefore planning and organizing of rapid forces which can work during such mishaps have been developed by all the nations in the form of natural disaster management. India which has different types of vegetation and geography witnesses almost all the kinds of disasters most common among them all being floods. Therefore National disaster Management Authority has been established. It is the apex body which looks after the management and control of such accidents. It has been established under Disaster Management Act, 2005. Its responsibility is like that of a state which is also helped by central government through the ministry of Home Affairs. Any disaster be it manmade or natural, always leads to loss of life and property. For instance the recent floods in the state of Uttarakhand led to loss of 30% of economy.  Many international organizations like Red Cross, United Nations, World Bank also work in this field. They collaborate with domestic agencies to work. Therefore it is concluded that a strong and effective management system is a must for prevention and control of such disasters.’

 

Introduction

“What has so often excited wonder is the great rapidity with which countries recover from a state of devastation; the disappearance, in a short time, of all traces of the mischiefs done by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and the ravages of war.”

John Stuart Mill

What does Disaster mean?

The word “disaster” means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or manmade causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.[1] In other words we can understand disaster as a natural or man-made hazard resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment. It is a phenomenon that can cause damage to life and property and destroy the economic, social and cultural life of people.

 Disaster is of two types:-

 i)  Natural disaster

A natural disaster is a consequence when a natural hazard affects humans and/or the built environment. Human vulnerability, and lack of appropriate emergency management, leads to financial, environmental, or human impact. The resulting loss depends on the capacity of the population to support or resist the disaster: their resilience.

Various phenomena like landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and cyclones are all natural hazards that kill thousands of people and destroy billions of dollars of habitat and property each year.

ii.)  Man Made disasters

Man-made disasters are the consequence of technological or human hazards. The examples of manmade disasters include stampedes, fires, transport accidents, industrial accidents, oil spills and nuclear explosions/radiation. War and deliberate attacks may also be put in this category.

According to the world bank disaster management report developing countries suffer the greatest costs when a disaster hits any such developing country. More than 95% of all deaths caused by disasters occur in developing countries, and losses due to natural disasters are 20 times greater (as a percentage of GDP) in developing countries than in developed countries.[2]

What is Disaster Management?

 “Disaster management” means a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient for-

i.  prevention of danger or threat of any disaster;

ii.  mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or its severity or consequences;

iii.  capacity-building;

iv.  preparedness to deal with any disaster;

v.  prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster;

vi.  assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster;

vii.  evacuation, rescue and relief;

viii.  Rehabilitation and reconstruction.[3]

According to the international federation of Red Cross and red crescent society Disaster management can be defined as the organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters.[4]

Disaster, Disaster Management and India

Natural disasters in India cause massive loss to life and property. Flash floods, cyclones, avalanches, droughts, landslides brought on by torrential rains, and snowstorms pose the greatest threats. Other dangers include frequent summer dust storms, which usually track from north to south; they cause extensive property damage in North India and deposit large amounts of dust from arid regions. Hail is also common in parts of India, causing severe damage to standing crops such as rice and wheat. But floods are the most common natural disaster in India. The heavy southwest monsoon rains cause the Brahmaputra and other rivers to distend their banks, often flooding surrounding areas. Though they provide rice paddy farmers with a largely dependable source of natural irrigation and fertilization, but the floods can kill thousands and displace millions. Almost all of India is flood-prone, and extreme precipitation events, such as flash floods and torrential rains, have become increasingly common in central India over the past several decades, coinciding with rising temperatures.

As the apex Body or as an authoritative body for Disaster Management in India, mandated by the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Prime Minister of India is the chairman of NDMA, and the Vice Chairman is Shashidhar Reddy. Under the Vice chairman are eight members, all superannuated officials, who have the status, pay, and entitlements of ministers of state. Also there is a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) of 12 battalions, under the NDMA. It is organized on paramilitary lines, and is manned by persons on deputation from the para-military forces of India. As on 6 October, 13, it was headed by Mr. Krishna Chaudhary.

The responsibility for Disaster Management in India’s federal system is that of the State Government with the supporting role of the national government. The ‘nodal Ministry’ in the central government for management of natural disasters, is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). In the MHA this function is discharged by the Disaster Management Division (DMD). When ‘calamities of severe nature’ such as the natural disaster in Uttarakhand occur, the Central Government is responsible for providing aid and assistance to the affected state, as may be needed, including the deploying, at the State’s request, of Armed Forces, Central Paramilitary Forces, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and such communication, air and other assets, as are available and needed. The response of the central government is based on ‘gravity of a natural calamity’ and the ‘scale of the relief operation’.

Microeconomics Aspect

Natural disasters are the one which can disrupt both the local economy as well as the national economy. Calculation of the damages of such an event can be a difficult task because the cost of a natural disaster is ultimately wedded to several factors, and varies by type of disaster. The key factors are the magnitude and duration of the event, the structure of the local economy, the affected geographical area, time and population base. Naturally, disasters that affect densely populated areas have the greatest potential for inflicting the most damage because not only are large numbers of people endangered, but the potential loss to homes, roads, bridges, businesses, highways and utilities is also magnified.

The factors that contribute to the over-estimation of losses vary considerably. In some cases, buildings, infrastructure and crops that appear totally destroyed may in fact be only partially damaged. To some extent, this phenomenon may be driven by the media, who are merely striving to add a monetary flavor to the disaster. Other factors also come into play. According to some economists who have studied natural disasters, there is an incentive for states to overestimate their losses in order to maximize their political leverage.

Till now we have discussed the cost of a natural disaster and the losses that stem from a natural disaster as if they are one and the same; economically they are two separate terms. Losses occur principally through destruction of an economy’s wealth like the physical assets that help generate income. These assets include levees, roads, bridges, utilities, factories, homes, buildings, forests or other natural resources. To correctly measure these losses, one must attempt to calculate either the lost income that these physical assets help generate, or the decline in the assets’ values. But to count both is to double count. By contrast, costs are incurred when an economy undertakes to replace, repair or reinforce those tangible assets (capital) that are destroyed.

Despite these limitations, economists attempt to measure the total loss of a disaster by estimating two separate types of losses i.e. direct and indirect. Direct losses are easier to estimate. For example, in an earthquake or Tsunami, they would consist of the structures that are destroyed or damaged as a result of the actual force; in the case of a flood, they would consist of water damage to levees, crops or buildings. Indirect, or secondary, losses occur as a result of destruction to buildings, structures or bridges. These include lost output, retail sales, wages and work time, additional time commuting to work, additional costs to business from rerouting goods and services around the affected area, utility disruptions, reduced taxable receipts, lost tourism or increased financial market volatility.Disaster losses manifest themselves in numerous ways and can never be estimated with absolute certainty. Economists believe that the true value of a physical asset is its present discounted value. Probably the next best alternative will be the structure’s market value, but this measure also presents problems because some physical assets are not traded in the marketplace and hence determining their true market value is next to impossible. Thus, with the lack of reliable information, asset’s replacement cost is used. But endlessly other issues also arise like how do you measure the decline in property values that sometimes occurs in the vicinity of the disaster area? What prices and production should you attach to crops that were washed away before harvest, or livestock that were unable to gain weight during severe weather? And finally, how do you calculate the expected lifetime earnings of individuals who perished?

Analysis

 In this chapter we will see that what happened in Uttarakhand when the river flood came and what role did Union and state played to manage the disaster and economic effect on Uttarakhand because of this flood –

  • River flooding at Uttarakhand: a time line of events[6]

i. 13 June 2013: Meteorological Department, Dehradun, forecast “heavy to very heavy rainfall in the upper regions of Uttarakhand in the next 48 to 72 hours”. The Central Government, Uttarakhand Government, and National Disaster Management Authority, ignored the warning.

ii. 14–16 June 2013: Heavy unseasonal monsoon rain in north India, which triggered floods, and landslides, in the north western mountain states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. But state of Uttarakhand  was highly affected.

iii.  17 June 2013: Army helicopters conduct aerial reconnaissance of Kedarnath. Army orders an infantry unit to send a foot column to establish contact with the temple town. Next day, early morning, after a night march, an infantry column, under its Commanding Officer reaches Kedarnath. India Army’s Central Command starts deployment of 5000 troops in the flood affected areas, in response named “Operation Ganga Prahar”. Indian Air Force(IAF) helicopters conducts relief and rescue missions. Medium lift helicopters including MI -17 and V5 helicopters, moved to Jolly grant helipad, Dehradun. Late in the evening, Defense Minister A.K. Antony, alerts the Armed Forces for relief and rescue mission.

iv.  18 June 2013: Lt-General Navtej Singh Bawa, the General Officer Commanding Uttar Bharat Area, moves to Dehradun, to lead the Army disaster response and coordinate with the State government, and other agencies. Indian Air Force’s started humanitarian mission, named Operation Rahat. MHA, outlines response to unfolding disaster. On 15 June, the Inspector General, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Uttarakhand, ordered to “get in touch with Chief Secretary and provide whatever assistance was required by the State Government” as ITBP posts and troops are already there in affects areas and are working and rescuing the people from day one; Border Road Organization (BRO) asked to “facilitate restoration of road communication across the different routes”; 12 additional teams of the NDRF ordered to be deployed to Uttarakhand, and 34 deaths confirmed in Uttarakhand.

v.  19 June 2013: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also Chairman of the NDMA and the Indian Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, carry out an aerial survey of affected area. The PM calls the situation in Uttarakhand a ‘disaster’ and directs “all Central Agencies to render all possible assistance in their domain to the State.” Army’s names its response to the natural disaster in Uttarakhand as Operation Surya Hope. Army carries out aerial reconnaissance of Kedarnath, Jungle Chatti, and other inaccessible areas where people are stranded. Army plans paratroop operations, and the establishment of heli-bridge to rescue, and evacuate the stranded people. Responders in affected area include 5500 Army man’s 3000 BRO person’s, ITBP – 600, NDRF 13 teams- 422, 18 helicopters (IAF, army and civil) and 1 Hercules C-130.

vi.  20 June 2013: Official communication from the Government of Uttarakhand, for army assistance reaches Home ministry.

Disaster toll : Districts affected-09; deaths-71; Injured- 53; missing-23; Lives stock lost -1157; houses ‘fully’ damaged -366; houses partially damaged-272; bridges damaged-21; stranded pilgrims-62,122; persons rescued- 22,392

vii. 21 June 2013: One of the eight members of the NDMA with status of Minister of State, designated as nodal officer, to coordinate rescue, relief, and assistance mission. Uttarakhand Government posts 12 officers to disaster affected areas as nodal officers to coordinate the response. The officers reach their respective post on 22 and 23 June.

viii. 25 June 2013: IAF Mi-17 V5 helicopter on a relief and rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath on return leg from Kedarnath crashed. 20 persons on board killed [ 5 IAF crew members, and 15 ITBP soldiers, including 9 on deputation with NDRF]. But even after this incident rescue operation is going on by military persons.

ix.  26 June 2013: Central Command launches a web site for reporting progress on Operation Surya Hope in Uttarakhand. The site provides location wise list of stranded and rescued persons, and press releases issued by Central Command. Government imports 25 satellite phones from Hong Kong for the ill-prepared NDMA, and NDRF.

x.  28 June 13: General Bikram Singh, the Chief of the Army Staff, on a visit Gauchar, in Uttarakhand, while speaking to journalist, says Operation Surya Hope was “aid to civil authorities”, to “strengthen the hands of the civil administration”. Army confirms that all people stranded in Kedarnath had been evacuated, and that the road to Badrinath was open.

xi 30 June 2013: Ministry of Defence update, notes that IAF from 17 -30 Jun 2013, airlifted 18,424 persons, in 2,137 sorties, and delivered 3,36,930 kg of relief supplies.

xii.  2 July 2013: Evacuation of all stranded pilgrim complete. BBC described it as “one of the world’s largest air rescue operations”.

xiii.  10 July 2013: Army Engineers started work on a new 20 km route to restore land communication with Kedarnath, which has remained cut off since the 16 June. An advance team of four officers and 21 soldiers reached Gomkar on 11 July.

xiv.  15 July 2013: Officials confirmed that the disaster toll was 580 dead, and 5,748 missing (924, from Uttarakhand and 4,824 are from other Indian states), and that a total of 108,653 people have been evacuated from affected area by air and foot.

xv.  16 September 2013 : Subhash Kumar, Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand, issued revised figures for missing persons from 5100 to 4,120, including 421 children. The revised figures, compiled by Dehradun-based Missing Persons Cell, are based on a review of the First Information Reports recorded in the state’s 13 districts.

xvi.  As on today rehabilitation work is going on which is supposed to be completed in 2015.

It is the name that Indian Army’s Central Command gave to its response in Uttarakhand following the June 2013 North India floods. Operation Surya Hope was conducted by Indian Army’s Lucknow based Central Command.

Operation Surya Hope is a successor to Operation Ganga Pharar. Operation Surya Hope was commanded by Lieutenant General Anil Chait, General Officer Commanding in Chief Central Command. Over 10,000 troops participated in Operation Surya Hope. It was conducted in tandem with the response by IAF (Operation Rahat), the BRO, NDRF, ITBP and other para military forces under the Ministry of Home.

The floods and landslides in Uttarakhand, the worst natural disaster in the area in a hundred years, has been called a Himalayan Tsunami by the Government of India. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the total rainfall in Uttarakhand was the highest in the last 80 years. The rainfall was 440% above the normal.

The total number of aircrafts involved in the evacuation, relief, rescue, and search tasks, according to government sources, was 83 (IAF-45, Army-13, hired helicopters- 25). The helicopters carried out their mission in hazardous mountain conditions, often in rain and fog.

For relief and rescue operations, the army divided the affected areas into four axis, or sub sectors. On 19–20 June, the army conducted reconnaissance, and  stranded people. By 20 June evening the army reported that it had ‘rescued more than 11000 people, and was sheltering, feeding, and providing medical assistance to about 10,000. As follow up to aerial reconnaissance of inaccessible areas on 19 June, army plans heliborne operations by paratroopers and special forces to rescue stranded people, in Jungle Chatti, Kedarnath, and other areas. On 20 June, the army, started work on the maintenance and improvement, and expansion of helipad at Gagaria on Hemkund Sahib axis to make it ready to accommodate the larger MI-17 helicopter to allow for speedier aerial evacuation.

On 23 June, relief, rescue, search, and evacuation operations were started by indian army. Army works on securing, marking, and improving helipads; repairing and installing bridges; improving and restoring tracks; establishing staging areas, transit areas, reception centers, medical aid posts; escorting and guiding people; providing food, water, shelter, and medical aid to the affected population, and most importantly providing through their presence, example, and leadership, hope, and encouragement to the stranded population.

Medical aid formed an important component of the mission. Doctors from Army Medical Corps, and nurses from the Military Nursing Service were amongst the lead elements to be deployed in the area. By 19 June, it was reported, 12 self-sufficient medical teams were deployed in the area. An emergency medical helpline was opened, and military communication channels were provided to affected people to speak with their families and friends.  In addition the IAF deployed Air Force Rapid Action Medical Teams, with the air stations, and detachments. On 26 June 13, A team of two psychiatrists from Army Medical Corps, opened a post disaster and trauma counseling center in the Joshimath sector, to provide counseling to the civil population stranded at Badrinath and Kedarnath. On 26 June 13, veterinary teams from the Army Veterinary Corps consisting of a veterinary doctor and two paramedics were inducted by helicopter to establish Animal Aid Posts along the Hemkund axis to take care of ponies and mules stranded in the area.

After the river flood; economy of Uttarakhand whose major part comes from tourism was badly affected. As people are threatened to come in Uttarakhand, around 30 % of the economy suffered. Many people became jobless and moreover almost all the tourist places were destroyed. There was a huge loss of infrastructure and man power.  Around 1000 crore is the money which is decided to be given as a compensation part which is not sufficient at all as loss is much more than that for example a person who lost his 1 family member and around 20 lacs of property is getting only 10 lacs which is not in any kind of comparison and for that also; he had to wait.

So at the end one can clearly say that economical condition of affected people as well as of state is in very bad condition. To overcome the situation state of Uttarakhand had demanded a special package from union government.

From the happening of river floods in Uttarakhand the clear picture of seriousness of state and union towards Disaster management was displayed. All the work done including rescue operations and relief camps were done by localites and military forces and official agencies for this work responded after 3 days with a lot of confusion in there mind. Our great politician at both level are just trying to blame each other and were in busy in making the plan that how can they take the political advantage of this situation. However there are some serious and good politicians and bureaucrats who helped and were trying to cope up with the situation.

At both the levels state as well as union there was a very late response to this situation as seen earlier but because of the activeness of army and co operation of civilians somehow situation was managed.

Comparative Study

In this chapter we will see the various organization working for the purpose of disaster management and disaster management in other countries

  •  Organisation working at international level for the purpose of disaster management

i.  Red Cross/Red Crescent[8]

National Red Cross/Red Crescent societies often have pivotal roles in responding to emergencies. Additionally, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies may deploy assessment teams. After having assessed the needs Emergency Response Units (ERUs) may be deployed to the affected country or region. They are specialized in the response component of the emergency management framework.

ii. United Nations

Within the United Nations system responsibility for emergency response rests with the Resident Coordinator within the affected country. However, in practice international response will be coordinated, if requested by the affected country’s government, by deploying a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team.

iii.  World Bank[9]

Since 1980, the World Bank has approved more than 500 operations related to disaster management, amounting to more than US$40 billion. These include post-disaster reconstruction projects, as well as projects with components aimed at preventing and mitigating disaster impacts, in countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Haiti, India, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam to name only a few.

Common areas of focus for prevention and mitigation projects include forest fire prevention measures, such as early warning measures and education campaigns to discourage farmers from slash and burn agriculture that ignites forest fires; early-warning systems for hurricanes; flood prevention mechanisms, ranging from shore protection and terracing in rural areas to adaptation of production; and earthquake-prone construction.

In a joint venture with Columbia University under the umbrella of the ProVention Consortium the World Bank has established a Global Risk Analysis of Natural Disaster Hotspots.

·         Various National organizations working in their respective countries

i.  Australia

Natural disasters are part of life in Australia. There Drought occurs on average every 3 out of 10 years and associated heat waves had killed more Australians than any other type of natural disaster in the 20th century.

Australia’s emergency management processes embrace the concept of the prepared community. The principal government agency in achieving this is Emergency Management Australia.

ii.  Canada

Public Safety Canada is Canada’s national emergency management agency. Each province is required to have legislature in place for dealing with emergencies, as well as establish their own emergency management agencies, typically called an “Emergency Measures Organization” (EMO), which functions as the primalization with the municipal and federal level. They also work with other levels of government, first responders, community groups, the private sector (operators of critical infrastructure) and other nations.

iii.  Germany[10]

In Germany the Federal Government controls the German disaster relief (Katastrophenschutz) and civil protection(Zivilschutz) programs. The local units of German fire department and the Technisches Hilfswerk (Federal Agency for Technical Relief,) are part of these programs & The German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr), the German Federal Police and the 16 state police forces (Länderpolizei) all have been deployed for disaster relief operations.

iv.  New Zealand[11]

In New Zealand, responsibility for emergency management moves from local to national depending on the nature of the emergency or risk reduction program. Within each region, local governments are unified into 16 Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups (CDEMGs). As local arrangements are overwhelmed by an emergency, pre-existing mutual-support arrangements are activated. As warranted, central government has the authority to coordinate the response through the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC), operated by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM). These structures are defined by regulation and best explained in The Guide to the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan 2006, roughly equivalent to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Response Framework.

 v. Pakistan

Disaster management in Pakistan revolves around flood disasters with a primary focus on rescue and relief. Within disaster management bodies in Pakistan, there is a dearth of knowledge and information about hazard identification, risk assessment and management, and linkages between livelihoods and disaster preparedness. There are no long-term, inclusive and coherent institutional arrangements to address disaster issues with a long-term vision. Disasters are viewed in isolation from the processes of mainstream development and poverty alleviation planning. Absence of a central authority for integrated disaster management and lack of coordination within and between disaster related organizations is responsible for effective and efficient disaster management in the country. State-level disaster preparedness and mitigation measures are heavily tilted towards structural aspects and undermine non-structural elements such as the knowledge and capacities of local people, and the related livelihood protection issues.[12]

vi.  United States

Disaster management  in the United States has utilized the functional All-Hazards approach for over 20 years, in this approach emergency managers develop processes (such as communication & warning or sheltering) rather than developing single-hazard/threat focused plans (e.g., a tornado plan). Processes then are mapped to the hazards, with the emergency manager looking for gaps, overlaps, and conflicts between processes.

In the United States, all disastrous events are initially considered as local, with local authorities usually a law enforcement agency having charge. However, if the event becomes overwhelming to local government, state emergency management becomes the controlling emergency management agency. Under the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is lead federal agency for emergency management and supports, but does not override, state authority.

CONCLUSION

Some of the significant natural disasters in India over the last two decades are as follows:

  • 1993 Latur earthquake. Killed 20,000, injured 30,000 and destroyed about 52 villages.
  • 1999 Odisha cyclone. Killed almost 10,000, left over 2 million homeless and disrupted 20 million lives.
  • 2001 Kutch earthquake. Killed 20,000, injured 1,67,000 and left over 6 lakh people homeless. Bhuj was devastated.
  • 2004 the Indian Ocean Tsunami affected over 2,200 kms of coastline, killed over 15,000 people rendered lakhs of people homeless.
  • 2005 floods in Gujarat killed 123 because thankfully over 2,50,000 were evacuated in time by helicopters of the Indian Air Force. The state suffered losses of over Rs 8,000 crores.
  • 2005 Mumbai floods killed 5,000 people, more than 24,000 animal carcasses disposed.
  • 2012, Uttarakhand was the victim of very similar flash floods. 38 people were reported dead.
  • 2013 Uttarakhand. Not done counting. Toll  reports are ranging from 900 to 10,000.

And in all these disasters there has been loss of crores and crores of Indian money. These incidents and disasters are sufficient to tell that what union and states are doing when it come to disaster management. Our union and states are complete failure in ensuring the safety or prevention from disaster.

Because of the failure in properly implementing the disaster management act, we are facing a heavy loss of capital and human life over the years.

If we see the recent floods in uttarakhand then also we are able to see that because of lack of proper management and preventive methods we lost around 10,000 lives and a huge chunk of money invested as in capital form or in infrastructure, which tells that we are complete failure on the economic front of natural disaster also.

There is a huge lack of co ordination and the disaster management act, 2005 is only a paper law in India. There is a lack of seriousness towards the disaster management which results in the heavy economic losses.

We cannot stop natural disasters but yes we can prevent them and we can take appropriate measures for lowering the losses and saving the lives of hundreds.

RELATION WITH LAW

  • Disaster Management act, 2005

The Disaster Management Act, 2005 (No. 53 of 2005) was came into effect on 12 December 2005. It received the assent of The President of India on 9 January 2006. It  has 11 chapters and 79 sections. The Act extends to the whole of India. The Act provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

i.  The Act calls for the establishment of NDMA, with the Prime Minister of India as chairperson. The NDMA have nine members including a Vice-Chairperson. The NDMA is responsible for “laying down the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management” and to ensure “timely and effective response to disaster”. It is responsible for laying “down guidelines to be followed by the State Authorities in drawing up the State Plans”.

ii.  The Act enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee to assist the National Authority. This committee consists of Secretaries to the Government of India in the Ministries of home, drinking water supply, environment and forests, finance (expenditure), health, power, agriculture, atomic energy, defence, rural development, science and technology, space, telecommunication, urban development, and water resources, with the Home secretary serving as the Chairperson, ex officio. The Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, is an ex officio member of the NEC.  The NEC under section of the Act is responsible for the preparation of the National Disaster Management Plan for the whole country and to ensure that it is “reviewed and updated annually”.

iii. This act mandate all the State Governments to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) on the framework of NDMA.

iv. This act also call for the establishment of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) whose chair person will be the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner of the district.

v.  The Act provides for constituting a NDRF “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under a Director General to be appointed by the Central Government.

vi.  The Act provides for civil and criminal liabilities for those who violate the provision of the Act.

When it comes to the implementation of the National Disaster Act, 2005 it has been slow, and slack. On 22 July 2013 Indian Supreme Court Justices A K Patnaik and M Y Eqbal in response to a Public Interest Litigation which is filed on after the failure of this so called management machinery issued notices to the Governments of Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan Maharashtra and the Central government.

The petitioner alleged that the non-implementation of the Disaster Management Act by the Government of Uttarakhand endangered the lives of citizens. He sought “reasonable ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life, damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood to victims of flash floods in Uttarakhand under the Disaster Management Act”.

Edited By Parul Padhi

 

[1]The Disaster management act 2005

[2]World bank disaster management

[3]See supra note 1

[4]http://www.ifrc.org/what/disasters/management/index.asp accessed on 01-Oct-13 7:51:57 PM

[5]Brookshire and McKee (FEMA, July 1992), p. 282.

[6]India Today 3rd issue of june, 2013 and local newspapers

[7] See supra note 6

[8]http://www.ifrc.org/en/what-we-do/disaster-management/responding/disaster-response-system/dr-tools-and-systems/eru/ accessed on 06-Oct-13 5:33:17 AM

[9]World bank disaster risk management projects Web.worldbank.org (2004-04-28). Retrieved on 2013-10-06.

[10]http://www.kavoma.de/ accessed on 06-Oct-13 5:35:09 AM

[11]Legislation.govt.nz (2008-10-01). Retrieved on 2013-10-06.

[12]Natural hazards and disaster management in Pakistan”. MRPA. Munich Personal RePEc Archive. Retrieved 2013-10-06.

[13]The disaster management act,2005

[14] Natural hazards and disaster management in Pakistan”. MRPA. Munich Personal RePEc Archive. Retrieved 2013-10-06.

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