homeenvironment NewsClimate change, reckless land use behind frequent landslides in Uttarakhand, say experts

Climate change, reckless land use behind frequent landslides in Uttarakhand, say experts

Climate change, reckless land use behind frequent landslides in Uttarakhand, say experts
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By CNBCTV18.com Oct 20, 2021 7:33:17 PM IST (Published)

Besides climate change, indiscriminate tree cutting, unplanned road building across mountains and other developmental projects have shaken the natural equilibrium of the fragile Himalayan area, spelling catastrophe for humans living there.

Heavy rainfall in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon hills has left 48 people dead, with another 11 missing. The rains caused landslides and floods, which also led to untold property damage. While, in the past, similar natural disasters would happen once every 20 years, their frequency has risen to multiple times in a single year. Climate change and reckless use of land have contributed to this increased frequency of natural disasters in the ecologically sensitive area.

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India Meteorological Department’s Dehradun centre said two weather stations in the Kumaon region received the highest rainfall in 124 years of record-keeping. Mukteshwar, 21 km from Nainital, witnessed 340.8 mm of rain on October 19 while Pantnagar saw 403.2 mm of rain on the same day. The state has already received over 485X higher rainfall than the average for the month, with districts like Chamoli and Udham Singh Nagar receiving more than 10,000 percent higher precipitation than expected since October 18.
The increasing number of erratic rainfall events highlights the findings of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which stated that India will be facing the wrath of climate change.
The IPCC predicted that India will see even further acceleration in the recession of the glaciers and snow caps in the Himalayas across the 21st century. As temperatures increase, glaciers will melt and shrink in the northern Himalayas, and the area covered with snow will decrease significantly. At the same time, rainfall is expected to intensify across the Himalayan region.
The frequency of rainfall is expected to increase across the rest of the country as well. The IPCC predicted that precipitation over the year, and during the monsoon season, will increase substantially. Heavy rain is expected to lash all of India.
The incessant showers across India in October, when the monsoon has officially withdrawn, has caused higher than average rainfall in several areas of the country. Besides Uttarakhand, Kerala has borne the brunt of the most recent flooding.
“Due to climate change, there is definitely a rising frequency in the extreme weather events round the year. But these specific occurrences of heavy to very heavy rains that we are seeing right now can be attributed to the formation of low-pressure systems,” Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director-General of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), told The Indian Express.
Another contributor to heavy rainfall across India has been the slow withdrawal of the monsoon system, caused by global climatic changes.
While climate catastrophes, like flash floods, cloud bursts, flooding and heavy rains continue to strike the northern states, the central government has stated that it has found no direct link between climate change and events like cloud bursts.
"Manifestations of extreme events, including cloudbursts, and their incidence are modelled and projected in various scientific assessments. However, there is no established study for India estimating the quantified contribution of climate change in triggering such cloudbursts," Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on August 2.
With experts suggesting that the incidences of cloud bursts and heavy rainfall activity will only increase over the decade due to the effects of climate change, the land use patterns in areas like Nainital have made them more susceptible to disaster.
Excessive tree cover loss due to road cutting, illegal mining activities, increase in hill agriculture, and improper waste disposal have been the major factors. Without trees to slow the movement of water down slopes, and to hold the loose soil together, rain-induced landslides become far more common than before.
“There are human factors which are aggravating the human loss in such events. We are cutting trees for development projects, we are cutting hills and destabilising slopes by cutting hills for roads, we have built hydel power projects in fragile Himalayan valleys, we are mining river beds discriminately. All these factors also contribute to the changes in the Himalayan ecology,” Anil Joshi, Founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization, a Dehradun-based NGO told Hindustan Times.
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