Natural Calamities

Land Slides & Flood

The hill slopes are prone to land slides, landslips, rockslides and soil creep. These hazardous features have hampered the over all progress of the region as they obstruct the roads and flow of traffic, break communication, block flowing water in stream and create temporary reservoirs and also bring down lot of soil cover and thus add enormous silt and gravel to the streams. These are of two types, first as slides due to natural factors (These slides are mainly due to geological, tectonic (Thrust, Fault, Seismic Zone, Joints and Fracture Zone and Sheer Zone), additional moisture percolation, surface water percolation and slopes more than 35°.) and second as slides induced by man and his activities (These are induced by human activity in the form of engineering constructions, massive deforestation and erroneous agricultural practices on barren hill slopes, road building , unscientific quarrying etc. A few land slides of the district e.g., Satpuli, Banghat, Patal, Kaliasaur, Lansdowne Landslides are a result of these practices.

In the Alaknanda River and its tributes, major land slides and floods have been known to occur every ten or twenty years. According to available information, the river Nandakini was blocked for three days in 1857 A.D. Later on, breaching of its temporary lake caused devastation in the Alaknanda valley. Similarly a massive land slide fell into Godiyar Tal, one of the feeders of Birahi river in year 1868 A.D. and it drove out half of the lake, instantaneously causing the river to over flow and even flooding the Alaknanda. Again in September 1893, the Birahi River was blocked by a gigantic landslide and rockfall. On August 1894 A.D. when a part of this rockfall breached, the flood caused damage to the old Srinagar town and villages along the Alaknada valley. There was a devastating flood in Alaknanda River on July 1970. Its impact extended from Hanumanchatti near Badrinath to 320 km. downstream at Haridwar. After 1970, damage due to floods and landslides in the catchments of Alaknanda area a recurring phenomenon.

Because of the increase in the population and the constructional activities, the frequency of landslides and lands subsidence has increased. Heavy construction work coupled with the lack of planning for water outlet; increase water seepage culminating in the land slides. Huge amount of explosives used in construction works of road have adversely affected the ecosystem of the region and the stability of stabilized mountain slopes.

Forest Fire

The history of forest fire, socio-economic and ecological losses associatedwith it clearly reveals that it has posed major threat to Himalayan forest ecosystem and acquired the character of natural calamities which is responsible for crores of rupees loss annually along with various adverse impacts on macro-climatic structure and bio-diversity of Himalayan region. In Himalayan region, the official methodology for fire loss assessment is resource based and mainly calculated on the basis of standardize economic norms fixed and timber destroyed by fires under different forest types. The environmental loss is given least importance. The prescribed values of fire loss do not compensate the real wealth loss of the habitat, flora, fauna and various other microbiological & geo-hydrological cycles.

In the forests of the district, fire outbreaks are a regular phenomenon. As per forest department sources, the massive fire in the year 1995 have engulf 597 sq. km. valuable forest area through 2272 fire incidents in whole Uttarakand region which has resulted in to loss of crores of rupees along with various long lasting ecological consequences. The health ailments and other problems generated by fire fumes do not receive due consideration in calculating fire loss. It has been observed that considerable number of wild animals either burnt in the forest fire or killed by poacher due to their migration from own habitats to vicinity settlement areas for saving their lives.

Among the fire accelerating effects, the local factors have been found more responsible. The dry and heated forest floor bio-mass (fallen leaves, mosses, lichens, dead wood etc.) becomes more susceptible to the spark or flames. The factors involved in primary fire outbreaks have been identified natural as well man-made. Among the natural phenomenon, the friction between the clumps of Bamboos like trees under influence of strong wind results in to spark which ignite the dry clump sheath, leaves and burst into fire which instantly spreads into vicinity areas. The manmade fire incidences are either due to negligence or due to vested interests.