Monitoring of moraine glacial lakes in Himachal essential to avert tragedy like Uttrakhand : Glaciologist

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Photo used for indicative purpose only. Source: Internet

Shimla, Feb 8

After the Kedarnath tragedy in 2013, Glaciologist had issued a warning that monitoring of Moraine Dammed Glacial Lakes(GOLFS) in Satluj, Beas, Chanab and Ravi basins in Himachal Pradesh is very much essential in the Himalayan region in order to avoid any eventuality like in Uttarakhand in future.  The report was published by Himachal Pradesh State Centre on Climate change last year authored by SS Randawa Pooja Rana, IM Bhuhuguna, B P Rathore and Nishtha Guatam had made the observations. The reports had concluded that monitoring of Moraine lakes( GOLFS) would not only save the precious human lives but also the public and the Governmental property.
A moraine is the accumulation of rock debris carried or deposited by a glacier, and sometimes, it can act as a dam to form a glacial lake.
The observations were made in light of Kedarnath tragedy which struck in the early hours of June 17, 2013 after the  water flow flooded downstream due to the overflowing of the Chorabari lake in Uttarakhand.
“Scientific insight gained from the analysis of multi-spectral satellite images suggests that spatial extent of a majority of glaciers is changing very fast leading to the formation of moraine dammed lakes. ” The study was conducted with increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events including floods, draughts, landslides etc which are being attributable to climate change… disaster management need greater attention” said the introductory abstract of GOLFS study.

Though it is very early to relate with the Feb 7 tragedy of Rishi-Ganga river in Uttrakhand Chamoli district where hundreds of people might have become victims, yet the study on the possibility of moraine lakes draws the attention now.
The study further stated that there is a considerable increase in the total number of lakes in each of the four river basins in Himachal with respect to the preceding years.
The study further said that moraine dammed glacial lakes (GOLFS) are increasing due to the melting of Himalayan glaciers in the Higher Himalayan. The analysis further revealed that a very high number of small lakes i.e. the lakes with area less than five hectare indicates that the effect of the climatic variations is more pronounced on the glaciers of the Himalayan region resulting in the formation of small lakes in front of the glacier snouts. Mostly it is due to the damming of the morainic material caused due to melting of the glaciers.
How many lakes in which basin of Himachal Pradesh
Of the four river basins, Sutlej was studied right from its origin in the Tibetan Himalaya, and researchers were able to map 562 lakes in its catchment area. 81 percent of these lakes are smaller than five hectares, nine percent have an area between five to ten hectares, and the remaining nine percent are big lakes having an area more than 10 hectares, stated the study.
The study warned of water accumulation in some isolated pockets in the upper catchment of the Tibetan Himalayan region and within the Spiti basin, which is part of the Sutlej basin. Some lakes near the village Chicham upstream of Kaza need monitoring as they lie along the river and can cause major damage upon bursting, warned the report.
In the Chenab basin, a total of 242 glacial lakes were identified, including some vulnerable areas such as the Miyar sub-basin, where a high frequency of lake formation at the glacier snouts indicates the effects of climatic changes, said the study. In another instance, the area of a lake at Geepang Gath glacier snout in the Chandra sub-basin increased from 93 hectares to nearly 99 hectares within a year.
93 and 38 such lakes were identified in the Beas and Ravi river basins respectively.
Pertinent to mention here that besides heavy rainfall the 2013  tragedy in Uttrakhand Himalaya took place because of bursting of a lake having a total area of about 08 hectare in front of the snout of the Chorabari glacier (Dobhal et.al.2013). Thus the magnitude of such lakes as far as the destruction is concerned cannot be overruled. Besides this, the lakes with area more than 10 hectare and the area between 5-10 hectare can be seen as the potentially vulnerable sites for causing damage in case of bursting of any one of them.
Thus proper monitoring of all such lakes is highly essential in the Himalayan region in order to avoid any eventuality like in Uttarakhand in future, 108 page report concluded.

Local villagers of Higher Himalayas based tribal districts in HP up in arms against construction of power projects

In view of the devastation caused by the breaking of the dam in Uttrakhand on Sunday, even villagers of Gaushal Panchayat of tribal district Lahaul Spiti vowed not to allow the proposed hydropower projects in Chandrabhaga Valley.  Former head of the Gaushal Panchayat, Megh Singh said that in a valley like Lahaul, which is most affected in the Himalayan region due to glacieal breakdown and fall of avalanches, the government is making a 56 hydroelectric schemes.  Perhaps the entire Lahaul Valley will go on the path of a tragedy like Uttarakhand in future, he feared.
Sushila Rana, head of the Gaushal Panchayat said that we have not given any no objection certificate (NOC) to the Tandi 104 MW project being constructed by SJVNL in any case and will not give it in future.
Vikram Katoch, vice-president of ‘Save Lahaul Spiti’ said that we are deeply hurt by what happened in Alkhnanda and so would strengthen the public awareness campaign against the perils caused due to hydroelectric projects in Lahaul.
On the basis of such study Gram Panchayat Triloknath of Lahaul-Spiti had submitted a memorandum to President of India and Governor of Himachal Pradesh on Feb 3, 2021 demanding to annulling all proposed power projects coming up on the Chandra-Bhaga and Chenab basins.
Bhudhi chand vice president of Gram Panchayat Trilokinath warned the government that if such projects were being set up in the tribal districts it would end up causing devastation. He said that 12 villages of the Gram Panchayat Triloknath and Shakoli are highly vulnerable to avalanches and in 1979 these villages suffered massive damages.
Demanding to cancel the 126MW Bardang project said that it would affects thousands of people moreover this projects are under the many glaciers of Pir- Punjal ranges. The ecology of this project areas is very fragile and upcoming of project would lead ecological devastation, residents of tribal areas warned.

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