Natural Disasters

Monsoon’s debut week in Himachal: Disaster toll already at 44

Wednesday’s Kullu cloudburst among 10 major incidents since rains started June 29 in hill state    

By Rohit Prashar
Published: Wednesday 06 July 2022
Debris at the site of the cloudburst in Kullu. Photo: Rohit Prashar__

The number of natural disasters in Himachal Pradesh has risen after the southwest monsoon entered the state June 29, 2022. More than 10 major incidents of landslides, flash floods and cloudbursts have been reported in which 44 people have died and 45 have been injured, according to state government data.

Experts said the tampering of the state’s fragile Himalayan ecology was responsible for an increase in the magnitude of each instance of natural disaster. 

The latest such incident took place in Chhoj Panchayat of Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district on the morning of July 6, 2022. At least six people were reported missing after a cloudburst occurred near a tourist camp site. Meanwhile, 30 people who had gone missing due to flash floods near the village of Malana, also in Kullu district, have been found.

Khemraj, an entrepreneur, who witnessed the Chhoj incident, said it took place at 5 am. His fish farm and four cows were lost in the cloudburst. Two people working with him have gone missing. “It happened so quickly that I could do nothing,” he said.

A vehicle was hit during a rock fall caused by a landslide in Dhali in Shimla late on the evening of July 5. A girl was killed on the spot and two others were injured in the incident.

Twelve people lost their lives and three others were injured when a bus fell into a gorge at Sainj in Kullu district three days ago. The main reason behind this accident is also believed to be a landslide caused by rain.

The India Meteorological Department has issued a ‘yellow alert’ for July 7 and an ‘orange alert’ for July 8 and 9. The disaster management department has instructed people to stay away from rivers and nullahs and asked tourists and travellers to be more careful while travelling.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said as the number of such incidents will increase as the monsoon gains momentum. He said all deputy commissioners have been directed to remain alert to deal with natural calamities. Relief operations should be expedited wherever any incident occurs.

“Urbanisation, speedy construction works, widening of roads, their four-laning, power projects, the removal of forests and soil erosion, all are responsible for the current state of affairs,” Mansi Asher, environmental expert and founder of Himdhara, an organisation working for environmental protection, said.

Asher pointed out that human intervention had reduced the ability of the Himalayas to bear disasters. Due to this, the magnitude of disasters had increased.

Experts at Himdhara have studied natural calamities in Himachal Pradesh and have found an increase in their incidence in four districts — Shimla, Mandi, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti.

Kinnaur district reported the highest number of deaths due to natural calamities last year. Lahaul-Spiti, which is part of a cold desert and receives very less rainfall usually, has also seen a lot of incidents during the last year due to excessive rainfall, floods and landslides.

“We should emphasise on doing developmental works while maintaining harmony with the environment to reduce the risk of disasters in the future,” Kulbhushan Upmanyu, an environmentalist, said.

“We should think more sensitively about environmental matters and only then proceed with future projects,” he added.

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