Heavy Monsoon Rains Trigger Devastating Landslides in Uttarakhand

Heavy Monsoon Rains Trigger Devastating Landslides in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand is currently facing the wrath of destructive monsoon rains. In the two months since the onset of heavy rainfall, the state has witnessed a tragic toll of 78 fatalities due to natural disasters, with 47 individuals injured and 18 people still missing. More than 80 percent of these deaths have been attributed to landslides.

No mountainous district in the state has remained untouched by the ravages of landslides, which have caused damage to buildings and roads alike. Experts attribute the major cause of landslides to the accumulation of rainwater in the mountains. A report by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) earlier this year had identified landslide risks in all 13 districts of Uttarakhand.

According to this report, Rudraprayag district faces the highest risk of landslides in the country, while Tehri ranks second among the top 10 most vulnerable districts in landslide-prone cases. Data from the Indian Geological Survey Department suggests that 72 percent, approximately 39,000 square kilometers, of Uttarakhand’s area is prone to landslides.

Between 1988 and 2022, there have been 11,219 landslide incidents recorded in Uttarakhand. Since 2015, over 300 lives have been claimed by landslide incidents. In the current year alone, Rudraprayag district has reported 19 deaths due to natural disasters since June 15.

The Kedarnath pilgrimage route has also been affected, with 15 additional people missing after a landslide near Gaurikund on August 4. Scientists and locals express concern, as this year’s landslide occurrences have been almost five times higher compared to the same period last year, with continuous heavy rainfall over the past month. The state’s Emergency Operations Center reports that there have been 1,123 landslide incidents in 2023, compared to 245 in the entirety of 2022.

Over 360 areas have been marked as high-danger landslide zones, including districts like Almora, Bageshwar, Nainital, Pithoragarh, and others. The changing patterns of rainfall, sudden downpours, and cloudbursts are all contributing factors to the increased risk of landslides. In this hilly state, where soil and rock stability can be easily disrupted, vigilance and preparedness for natural disasters are of paramount importance.

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