Eight years since the Kedarnath floods shocked the nation, Uttarakhand is still struggling with various landslides and floods every year. On 10th July, three people in Uttarakhand’s Bageshwar died in a landslide. The main bridge connecting two villages with the central city broke, and people were left stranded. On 13th July, heavy rains caused waterlogging in various areas leading to yet another landslide in Mussoorie. The question remains, why do so many landslides take place in Uttarakhand each year?
One of the significant reasons around the world for landslides is deforestation. In class, 5th learn about the cons of cutting trees and how important trees are for our ecosystem. Tree roots hold the soil together and keep the ground firm deforestation to create more industrial land loosens the soil. This unrelenting feeling of trees leaves the soil layers prone to erosion and landslides.
Using explosives to cut the mountains
The mountains are constantly cut to form newer and faster roads connecting the cities. Large pieces of mountains are cut and removed using heavy machinery coupled with explosives to create wider roads. More often than not, this leaves the mountains with weak cracks that, with time, fall onto the road. During monsoons, the heavy rainfall mixed with the already weakened slopes leads to heavy flooding and landslides.
For the past three years, Uttarakhand has seen some of the worst forest fires in history. With the forests burning for days on end. However, forest fires are often a natural process and even beneficial to some extent. But, left inches, they can ruin the forest cover, destroy soil and harm wildlife and humans alike. After a forest fire, the land left behind is again prone to landslides and is handled with great responsibility by the forest department.
Uttarakhand’s topographical location makes it one of the most disaster-prone states in India. Uttarakhand has the highest number of unstable zones in northern India. The ecological sensitivity of the state makes it even more at risk.
Uttarakhand is most famous for its Hindu religious sites. The famed ‘char dhak yatra’, ‘hemkund sahib’s or holy cities like Haridwar and Rishikesh attract many tourists. Tourism is one of the significant dependencies for the state’s economy. Various hotels, lodges, and resorts are constructed without proper planning or mindset to attract and accommodate more tourists. Riverside areas are fully covered with hotels offering the best view of the Ganges. Large areas of the forest are cut down to create more space. This mindless act without any proper geological plan makes the already disaster-prone area even more susceptible to landslides.
The state has varied geographical features and underlying causes that already make it vulnerable to natural calamities. Moreover, the illogical planning and utter ignorance of the people leave the land completely defenceless. Unless the state’s authority takes significant steps approaching this problem, even more people will lose their lives, lands and hard-earned livelihood.