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Environmental and economic impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods in Uttarakhand Himalaya: a case study

Environmental and economic impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods in... This paper examines the environmental and economic impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flow and flash flood in four villages of Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand Himalaya. On 18th July 2021 at 8:30 p.m., a cloudburst took place on the top of the Hari Maharaj Parvat, which triggered a huge debris flows and flash floods, affecting 143 households of four villages of downstream areas. Immediately after the cloudburst occurred, the authors visited four affected villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror. A structured questionnaire was constructed and questions were framed and asked from 143 heads of affected households on the impact of debris flows and flash floods on people’s life, set - tlements, cowsheds, bridges, trees, forests, and arable land in and around the villages. The volume of debris, boulders, pebbles, gravels, and mud was assessed. It was noticed that all four villages got lots of destructions in terms of loss of life—people and animals, and property damage—land, crops, and infrastructural facilities. This study shows that the location of the settlements along with the proximity of the streams, which are very violent during the monsoon season, has led to the high impact of debris flow on the affected villages. We suggest that the old inhabited areas, which are located in the risk zones, can be relocated and the new settlements can be constructed in safe places using suitability analyses. Keywords: Cloudburst, Debris flow, Flash flood, Calamity, Impact, Himalaya Introduction in the mountainous regions, causing large-scale destruc- Cloudburst, a geo-hydrological hazard, refers to a sud- tion of people, land, and property (Houghton et al. 1996; den and heavy rainfall that takes place within a short Wang et  al. 2014; Mayowa et  al. 2015; Malla et  al. 2020; span of time and a particular space (Sati 2013). The inten - Sim et al. 2022). Similarly, the Himalayan region is prone sity of rainfall is often more than 100  mm/h (Das et  al. to the occurrences of cloudburst-triggered hazards, caus- 2006). The disruptive events, cloudbursts occur dur - ing huge loss of life and property and degradation of for- ing the monsoon season in the Himalaya and trigger est and arable lands (Bohra et al. 2006; Allen et al. 2013; debris flows, flash floods, landslides, and mass move - Balakrishnan 2015; Ruiz-Villanueva et al. 2017). ments (Fig.  1). Fragile landscape, rough and rugged ter- The Uttarakhand Himalaya, one of the integrated parts rain, and precipitous slope accentuate the magnitude of of the Himalaya, is the most fragile landscape and prone geo-hydrological hazards. Cloudburst-triggered debris to geo-hydrological hazards—cloudbursts, avalanches, flows, flash floods, landslides, and mass movements have and glacier bursts (Sati 2019). It receives many hazards become more intensive and frequent worldwide, mainly mainly cloudburst-triggered debris flows, flash floods, landslides, and mass movements during the monsoon season every year. The intensity, frequency, and sever - *Correspondence: sati.vp@gmail.com ity of these hazards have been observed to increase dur- Department of Geography and Resource Management, Mizoram ing the recent past. Devi (2015) stated that the changing University (A Central University), Aizawl 796004, India © The Author(s) 2022. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http:// creat iveco mmons. org/ licen ses/ by/4. 0/. Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 2 of 11 Fig. 1 Cloudburst-triggered hazards in the Uttarakhand Himalaya monsoon patterns and increasing precipitation in the construction of settlements and infrastructural facilities Himalaya are associated with catastrophic natural haz- on the fragile slopes and along the river valleys have also ards. However, these hazards are the least understood caused severe hazards. The Uttarakhand region is home because of the remoteness of the areas and lacking mete- to world-famous pilgrimages and natural tourism. Mass orological stations (Thayyen et al. 2013). tourism during the rainy season enhances the intensity of The Uttarakhand Himalaya has many eco-sensitive disasters. zones, vulnerable to natural hazards mainly for geo- Several studies have been carried out on glacier-bursts hydrological hazards. Every year, many cloudburst and cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods events occur here, cause to roadblocks, land degrada- in the Himalaya (Shugar et  al. 2021; Byers et  al. 2018; tion, forest and cropland loss, and losses of life and Cook et al. 2018; Asthana and Sah 2007; Bhatt 1998; Joshi infrastructural facilities. One of the most devastating and Maikhuri 1997; NIDM 2015; IMD 2013; Khanduri cloudburst-triggered debris flow events of this century et  al. 2018; Sati 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2018a, b, 2020; occurred on the night of 16th and 17th June 2013 in the Naithani et al. 2011). These studies were conducted from famous Hindu pilgrimage ‘Kedarnath’, which killed more broader perspectives, mostly covering the entire Hima- than 10,000 people and devastated the entire Mandakini laya. However, the present paper looks into the case and Alaknanda river valleys (Upadhyay 2014; Sati 2013). study of four villages of the Uttarakhand Himalaya, which The entire region had received 16 major geo-hydrological were severely affected and damaged by cloudburst-trig - and terrestrial hazards within the last 50 years (Bhambri gered debris flows and flash floods, which occurred on et al. 2016). Some of the devastating cloudburst-triggered July 18th, 2021. It analyses the environmental impact of debris flows and flash floods that occurred in the Utta - cloudbursts in terms of forest and fruit trees dislocation, rakhand Himalaya are Rudraprayag on 14th September land degradation, and soil erosion—arable, forests, and 2012, Munsiyari on 18th August 2010, Kapkot on 19th barren land of the four affected villages. It also evaluates August 2010, Nachni on 7th August 2009, Malpa and the human and economic losses like the killing of people, Ukhimath on 17th August 1998, Badrinath on 24th July loss of existing crops, and damage of houses and cow- 2004, and the Alaknanda River valley on 1970. About sheds, respectively. The study suggests policy measures 20,000 people died and a huge loss of property took place to risk reduction and rehabilitation of settlements from due to these calamities (Das 2015). It has been noticed danger zones to safer areas after suitability analysis. that these catastrophic events occurred mainly during the three months of the monsoon season—July, August, Study area and September. The Uttarakhand Himalaya is located in the  north of Debris flows and flash floods caused by glacier- India and south of the Himalaya.  It is also called the bursts incidences were although not much frequent Indian Central Himalayan Region. Out of the total 93% and intensive yet, during the recent past, their number mountainous area, 16% is snow-capped, called the has increased owing to changes in the climatic condi- Greater Himalaya. The terrain is undulating and pre - tions. The increasing number of infrastructural facilities cipitous and the landscape is fragile, vulnerable to natu- on the valley bottom has accelerated damages owing to ral hazards. This catastrophic event occurred in the exposed elements in risk-prone areas (Sati 2014; ICI- four villages of Uttarkashi district. The Uttarkashi town MOD 2007a, b; Chalise and Khanal 2001; Bhandari lies about 10  km downstream of the affected villages. A 1994; Uttarakhand 2017). Many drivers exist, which National Highway number 108, connecting Haridwar and affect the severity of cloudburst-triggered hazards in Gangotri, is passing through Uttarkashi town. The four the Uttarakhand Himalaya. Growing population and the affected villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 3 of 11 are located in the upper Bhagirathi catchment, which the monsoon season when a heavy downpour occurs. is prone to geo-hydrological hazards. The slope gradi - Therefore, heavy losses of life and property in these areas ent of these villages varies from 15° to 70°. Indravati is a are common, taking place every year. perennial stream, a tributary of the Bhagirathi River that meets Bhagirathi from its left bank. All three Gadheras Methodology (streams)—Mando, Diya, and Siror are seasonal but vio- This study was empirically tested and a qualitative lent during the monsoon season. Nirakot (1530 m) village approach was employed to describe data. A struc- is located in the middle altitude of the Hari Maharaj Par- tured questionnaire was constructed. The main ques - vat (2350 m) in a steep slope, Mando village (1180 m) is tions framed and asked from the heads of households located on the left bank of the Bhagirathi River along the were—human and animal death, damage to self prop- Mando Gadhera with gentle to a steep slope, Kankrari erty—houses and cowsheds, and existing crops—cereals, (1620 m) village is located on the moderate to the gentle fruits, and vegetables. Loss to public properties such as slope on the bank of the Diya Gadhera, and Siror village bridges, public institutions, and forest land was assessed. (1280  m) is situated on the left bank of both Bhagirathi Based on the questions framed, we surveyed 143 heads and Siror Gadhera with gentle to the steep slope (Fig. 2). of households of four villages, which were partially or One of the prominent eco-sensitive zones of the Utta- fully affected due to cloudburst-triggered debris flow. rakhand Himalaya, the ‘Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone’ These villages are Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror. is 120  km long, spanning from Uttarkashi to Gaumukh, To assess the debris and the damaging areas, the authors along the Bhagirathi River valley (Sati 2018a, b). The rural travelled from the source areas to the depositional zones people depend on the output of the traditional farming and measured the volume of debris—boulders, pebbles, systems, often face intensive natural hazards. The settle - sands, and soils using a formula; circumference = 2πR ments are located either on the fragile and steep slopes and area = π * R . The slope gradient, accessibility, eco - or on the banks of streams, which are very violent during nomic conditions, and climate of the villages were Fig. 2 Location map of cloudburst source and hit areas and their surroundings Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 4 of 11 assessed and based on which, the susceptibility analysis four villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror of of the villages was carried out. The villages were divided Uttarkashi district, located down slopes of the hilltop into very high susceptibility, high susceptibility, and mod- and close to the Uttarkashi town, were severely affected erate susceptibility levels. Both environmental degrada- due to debris flow (Table  2). At the cloudburst hit area, tion and economic losses in four villages were assessed. it formed three gullies, which later on merged into three We used Geographical Positioning System (GPS) to streams, along which these villages are located. Debris, obtain the data of altitude, longitude, and latitude. Two from the source i.e. hilltop of Hari Maharaj Parvat, maps—case study villages and the major cloudburst inci- equally flew in three directions. Since the cloudburst dences—2020 and 2021 were prepared and data were event occurred at 8:30 p.m., the people did not have time also presented using graphs. Photographs of four villages to move with their movable property and therefore, the were used to present the destruction of villages due to the magnitude of damage was enormous. cloudburst event. The villages are located from the altitudes of 1180  m (lowest) to 1620 m (highest). Mando village is located at Results and analysis 1180  m, Kankrari village at 1620  m, Nirakot at 1530  m, Major cloudburst incidences in the Uttarakhand Himalaya and Siror has 1280  m altitude. The two villages—Nira - Past incidences depict that the Uttarakhand Hima- kot and Mando have west-facing slopes, Kankrari has a laya suffered tremendously due to cloudburst-triggered south-facing slope, and Siror has a north-facing slope. calamities. We gathered data on the major cloudburst These villages are located along the tributaries of the incidences in Uttarakhand in the monsoon seasons of Bhagirathi River, with 2 to 5  km distance from the road. 2020 and 2021 from the state disaster relief force (SDRF), The intensity and volume of debris were different in dif - Dehradun. From May to September 2020, 13 major ferent villages, therefore, the casualties and losses were cloudburst incidences were noticed in Uttarakhand also varied. The villages are surrounded by agricultural (Table  1). These incidences resulted in the death of 22 and forestlands. The farmers mainly grow subsistence people and 77 animals, and 19 houses were fully dam- cereal crops—paddy, wheat, pulses, oilseeds, fruits, and aged. Similarly, from May to September 2021, 17 major vegetables. Forest types comprise pine (sub-tropical) and cloudburst incidences were occurred in the Uttarakhand oak and coniferous forests (temperate), used for fodder, Himalaya, resulting in the death of 34 people and 144 firewood, and wild fruits. animals, and 106 houses were buried. Besides, it caused Located at the high-risk zones, these villages face sev- a huge loss to public property and landscape degradation. eral disaster incidences every year. Out of the total 143 The economic losses in 2021 were much higher than heads of households surveyed, more than 80% of heads the losses in 2020 (Fig.  3). In 2021, the frequency and were in favour of rehabilitating them in the safer areas. intensity of cloudburst-triggered calamities were also They wanted to relocate their houses and cowshed within higher. The loss of animals was quite high both the years. the village territory with financial assistance from the Houses that collapsed due to calamity were six times state government. The streams, along which the settle - higher in 2021 than in 2020. The loss of human life was ments are constructed, are fragile and highly vulnerable substantial in both years. Several bridges were washed to landslide hazards. Further, the cloudburst incidences away. are increasing due to climate change, the heads of house- District-wise major cloudburst events of 2020–2021 are holds perceived. shown in the map of the Uttarakhand Himalaya (Fig.  4). Figure  5 shows four villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kank- A total of 30 major cloudburst incidences were recorded, rari, and Siror, which were severely affected by cloud - out of which, 17 occurred in 2021. The Uttarkashi dis - burst-triggered debris flow and flash flood. The volume of trict received the highest incidences (07), followed by debris and boulders can be seen in all the villages. These the Chamoli district (05). Dehradun and Pithoragarh dis- villages are surrounded by dense sub-tropical and tem- tricts have recorded 04 incidences each. Rudraprayag 03 perate forests that vary from pine to mixed-oak and deo- and Tehri, Almora, Bageshwar have recorded 01 each. It dar. Kharif crops were growing in the arable land whereas has been observed that cloudburst-triggered incidences a large cropland has been washed away. mainly occurred in remote places along the fragile river valleys and middle slopes. Impact of cloudburst‑triggered debris flow and flash flood Environmental impact Case study of affected villages The environmental impact of cloudburst-triggered debris On July 18, 2021, a cloudburst hits the Hari Maharaj flow and flash flood in four villages of Uttarkashi district Parvat (hilltop) at an altitude of 2350  m at 8:30  p.m., was analyzed (Table  3). The major variables were the which triggered huge debris flows and flash floods. The number of forest trees dislocated, total land degradation, S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 5 of 11 Table 1 Major cloudbursts occurred in Uttarakhand in 2020 and 2021. Source: SDRF (2021) Date of occurrence Cloudburst hit area Casualties April–August 2020 April 23, 2020 Kotdwar (Pauri district) Low-lying areas were flooded and arable land was washed away April 27, 2020 Naugaon and Mori (Uttarkashi district) Five houses were partially damaged and agricultural land flown July 14, 2020 Dharchula (Pithoragarh) Landslide on the road connecting India–Tibet boarder July 19, 2020 Madkot and Tanga (Pithoragarh) Three people were killed and six injured July 20, 2020 Bata, Sirtaul, and Munsiyari Eight houses were buried, three people killed, 10 cattle died, and bridges and farmlands washed away July 28, 2020 Banagapani (Uttarkashi) 47 cattle died July 28, 2020 Ghat (Chamoli district) Three houses flown, cowsheds collapsed, and three people died August 9, 2020 Gangi village ( Tehri) 20 cattle were buried August 10, 2020 Sirwadi (Rudraprayag) Seven houses were fully damaged August 10, 2020 Bageshwar A house was collapsed and a bridge flown August 18, 2020 Mori village (Uttarkashi) 12 people died August 19, 2020 Near Lakhwar Dam (Uttarkashi) A bridge was collapsed August 24, 2020 Tali-Ansari (Chamoli) One person died and one injured May–July 2021 May 3, 2021 Kumrada, Baldogi, and Kamad (Uttarkashi) Three people died May 3, 2021 Narkota (Rudraprayag) On Three houses damaged and 1-acre arable land was washed away May 3, 2021 Khankra, Fatehpur Kotli, Gairsari Narkota One person died May 11, 2021 Devprayag town Sixteen buildings were collapsed May 20, 2021 Bijnad, Chakrata Three people and 24 animals died May 30, 2021 Bangwari village (Pauri) Two cows died and 0.5-acre agricultural land washed away, exiting crops dam- aged and fruit trees dislocated July 18, 2021* Nirakot One person died, 0.7-acre arable land washed away and three buildings and 5 bridges collapsed July 18, 2021* Mando Three people and two animals died, 1.2-acre arable land washed away, and five buildings and two bridges collapsed July 18, 2021* Kankrari One person died, 20.6-acre arable land was washed away, 11 buildings were dam- aged, and 6 bridges collapsed July 18, 2021* Siror 0.6-acre arable land flown and one bridge collapsed August 07, 2021 Khirsu 50 cattle died, six cowsheds collapsed August 08, 2021 The Valley of Flowers 20-m pathways and a footbridge was washed away August 13, 2021 Marchula (Almora) Houses, cowsheds, water pipes, and a road was washed away August 27, 2021 Bihar ( Vikas Nagar) Vyasi hydropower project was impacted August 30, 2021 Jumma village (Dharchula) Seven people died September 7, 2021 Syunsad village (Pauri) Farmlands and crops were damaged September 20, 2021 Panti village (Chamoli) Houses, shops, and cowsheds were washed away. Karnprayag-Gwaldom road was blocked for several days *Present case study villages land degradation under existing crops, number of fruit affected areas was huge, however, we have measured the trees dislocated, land degradation under arable land, land which was within and surrounding each village. The number of buildings were damaged, number of bridges total land degradation was 52.5 acres with the highest in damaged, and boulders’ volume. Forest trees, which dis- Kankrari (45 acres) and the lowest in Siror (0.5 acres). located were pine in the middle altitude and mixed-oak The land degradation under existing crops was 22.6 acres and deodar in the higher altitude. A total of 770 forest in all four villages, varying from 0.1 acres in Siror to 20.6 trees were dislocated from all four villages, out of which, acres in Kankrari. The total number of fruit trees dislo - 500 were from the Kankrari village (highest). The lowest cated was 486. Land degradation under arable land was trees dislocated were from Siror village (70). The total 22.6 acres. It includes the area under existing crops both land degradation from the cloudburst hit areas to the agriculture and horticulture. A total of 19 buildings were Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 6 of 11 was calculated in Indian Rupees (INR) at the current price. The total number of households affected was 143, of which, 100 households belonged to the Kankrari vil- lage (highest) and three households (lowest) were from Siror village. Four people died due to the calamity—three women from Mando village and 1 man from Kankrari vil- lage. Two cows from Mando village died. The total loss from the collapse of the building was 1.7 million INR, with the highest (1.1 million INR) from Kankrari village. A total of 0.77 million INR was lost due to forest loss, and the loss from existing crops was 3.35 million INR. Loss Fig. 3 Loss of human lives, livestock, houses and bridges due to from dislocation of fruit trees was noted high, which cloudburst in Uttarakhand during the 2020 and 2021 was about 0.5 million INR. A large portion of arable land was flown which value was 11.3 million INR. About 14 million INR was lost due to the collapse of bridges. As damaged whereas a total of 14 bridges, connecting the a whole, about 31.62 million INR was lost due to cloud- affected villages were washed away. burst calamity. Per household loss by the cloudburst calamity was noted 0.22 million INR. Economic impact The economic impact due to cloudburst calamity was Average circumference, area, and volume of boulders tremendous in the forms of a household affected, loss of We calculated the average circumference, area, and human and animal life, building loss, forest loss, loss of volume of boulders in the case study villages using existing crops including fruits, loss of arable land, and a formula: circumference = 2πR; Area = π * R ; vol- loss of bridges (Table  4). The value of all these assets ume = length × width × depth (Table  5). We noticed that Fig. 4 Location map of cloudbursts hit areas in 2020 and 2021 S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 7 of 11 Table 2 Salient geographical feature of cloudburst hit areas. Source: By authors Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari Siror Date of cloudburst 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) District Uttarkashi Uttarkashi Uttarkashi Uttarkashi Altitude (m) 1530 1180 1620 1280 Latitude 30° 45′ 23″ N 30° 44′ 09″ N 30° 38′ 56″ N 30° 44′ 27″ N Longitude 78° 25′ 56″ E 78° 27′ 16″ E 78° 27′ 56″ E 78° 29′ 15″ E Slope aspect West-facing West-facing South-facing North-facing Cloudburst hit area Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Distance travel by debris 2 km 4 km 5 km 3.5 km Name of stream Mando Gadhera ( Tributary of Bhagirathi) Mando Gadhera ( Tributary of Bhagirathi) Diya Gadhera ( Tributary of Indravati Siror Gadhera ( Tributary of Bhagirathi) River) Debris composition and size Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 65 mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 70 mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 40 mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 30 cubic m to 2300 cubic m (boulder-mud cubic m to 2400 cubic m (boulder-mud cubic m to 2200 cubic m (boulder-mud cubic m to 2200 cubic m (boulder-water ratio: 55:45) ratio: 60:40) ratio: 30:70) ratio: 70:40) Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 8 of 11 Fig. 5 Cloudburst affected villages a Nirakot, b Mando, c Kankrari, d Siror; Photo: by authors Table 3 Environmental impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flow and flash flood. Source: by authors Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari village Siror Total Number of forest trees dislocated 100 100 500 70 770 Total land degradation (acre) 2 4 45 0.5 51.5 Land degradation under existing crops (acre) 0.7 1.2 20.6 0.1 22.6 Number of fruit trees dislocated 162 20 300 4 486 Land degradation under arable land (acre) 0.7 1.2 20.6 0.1 22.6 Number of buildings damaged 3 5 11 Nil 19 Number of bridges damaged 5 2 6 1 14 the highest average area of boulders was in Mando vil- diameter of boulders was found in Mando village (6  m), 2 2 lage, which is 28.3 m followed by Kankrari 19.6 m , followed by Kankrari (5  m) and Nirakot (4  m) villages. 2 2 Nirakot 12.57 m , and Siror 7.1 m . In terms of the total The average smallest diameter of boulders was found in volume of debris, it was the highest in Kankrari village, Siror village (3 m). followed by Mando, Nirakot, and Siror villages. Figure  6 shows the average diameter of boulders in Susceptibility analysis the cloudburst-affected villages. We drew the figure Based on the above  description, susceptibility analy- with a scale of 1 cm is equal to 1 m. The average biggest sis of the case study villages was carried out (Table  6). S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 9 of 11 Table 4 Economic impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flow Discussion and flash flood. Source: By authors The Uttarakhand Himalaya is highly vulnerable to geo- hydrological disasters because of its geological formation Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari Siror Total (Vaidya 2019). It is an ecologically fragile, geologically Number of affected HHs 22 18 100 03 143 sensitive, and tectonically and seismically very active Loss of human life Nil 3 1 Nil 04 mountain range (Sati 2019). The geo-hydrological Loss of animals (cows) Nil 2 Nil Nil 02 events—cloudbursts and glacier bursts-triggered catas- Building loss (million INR) 0.25 0.45 1.1 Nil 1.7 trophes are very common and devastating. The monsoon Forest loss (million INR) 0.1 0.1 0.5 0.07 0.77 season poses severe threats to natural hazards because of Crops loss (million INR) 0.4 0.8 1.4 0.75 3.35 heavy downpours. About 93% of the Uttarakhand Hima- Loss of fruits (million INR) 0.162 0.02 0.3 0.004 0.5 laya is mountainous mainland, of which 16% is snow- Loss of arable land (million 0.35 0.6 10.3 0.05 11.3 capped. The undulating and  precipitous terrain and INR) remoteness are the most vulnerable for disaster risks. Loss of Bridges (million INR) 5 2 6 1 14 This study reveals that most of the cloudbursts inci - Total (INR) 6.26 3.97 19.6 1.87 31.62 dences in 2020–21 occurred mainly in the remote moun- tainous districts of the Uttarakhand Himalaya. The villages in the Uttarakhand Himalaya are located on the Table 5 Average circumference, area, and volume of boulders. sloppy land and along the river valleys, which are frag- Source: By author ile and very vulnerable to disasters. The rivers flow above Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari Siror danger marks during the monsoon season cause threats to rural settlements. The roads of Uttarakhand are con - Radius (m) 2 3 2.5 1.5 structed along the river banks and on fragile lands. These Diameter (m) 4 6 5 3 roads lead to the highland and river valley pilgrimages Circumference (m) 12.57 18.8 15.7 9.4 where the number of tourists and pilgrims visit every Area (m ) 12.57 28.3 19.6 7.1 year mainly during the monsoon season. There are many Total volume of debris 36,000 48,000 62,000 24,000 locations along the river valleys where the houses are (cubic m) constructed on the debris, deposited by rivers during debris flow events. Therefore, the environmental and eco - nomic losses due to debris flows and flash floods are high. The construction of hydropower projects along the river valleys without using sufficient technology further accen - tuates the vulnerability of debris flows and flash floods. One of the recent examples is the Rishi Ganga tragedy in Chamoli district where more than 200 people died with a huge loss to property (Sati 2021). We observed that the cloudburst triggered calamity in 2021 was higher than in 2020. The trend of occurring natural hazards has been increasing. Similarly, the intensity and frequency of natu- ral hazards were observed high. The present study shows that the environmental and economic loss in the four villages of the Bhagi- rathi River valley was huge due to cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods. Almost every household Fig. 6 Village-wise average diameter of boulders of the villages were affected by cloudburst calamity. There were large forest and arable land degradation, forest and fruit trees were dislocated, loss of life— human and animal, and the houses and bridges were collapsed. The calamity also poses threat to the future, The main variables of susceptibility were slope gra- in terms of, the large deposition of debris including dient, accessibility of villages, economic conditions boulders, pebbles, and gravels in the villages along the of households, and climatic conditions. We noticed streams and gullies. The rural people are poor and their that Nirakot village has very high susceptibility, Kank- livelihood is dependent on practicing subsistence agri- rari has high, and Siror and Mando have moderate culture. Many of them are living below the poverty line susceptibility. Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 10 of 11 Table 6 Susceptibility analysis of case study villages. Source: By authors Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari (including Sada and Siror Thalan) Slope gradient 30°–55° 30°–55° 30°–45° 20°–30° Accessibility Highly inaccessible Accessible Inaccessible Accessible Economic condition Not favourable Average Not favourable Average Climate Cold in winter Conducive Cold in winter Conducive Susceptibility Very high Moderate High Moderate in these villages. Because the existing crops have been lost, they are facing food insecurity. Further, the psy- Authors’ contributions chological problems are immense. The fear of another The first author analyzed data, prepared maps, and diagrams, and wrote the calamity is always there in the mind of people as all manuscript. The second author conducted a field survey and collected data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. villages are situated in very high to moderate suscep- tible areas. The national highway is passing through Declarations the right bank of the Bhagirathi River and the affected villages are situated on the left bank. The connectivity Ethics approval problem is immense all the time in these villages. The This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. entire rural areas of the Uttarakhand Himalaya are fac- ing similar problems. Competing interests There is no competing interests in the manuscript. Received: 20 September 2021 Accepted: 15 February 2022 Conclusion Cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods are natural calamities in the Himalayan regions. They occur naturally and cannot be stopped. The losses—environ - References mental and economic are also huge. However, the sever- Allen SK, Rastner P, Arora M, Huggel C, Stoffel M (2013) Lake outburst and debris flow disaster at Kedarnath, June 2013: hydrometeorological trig- ity of these natural calamities can be minimized. 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Environmental and economic impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods in Uttarakhand Himalaya: a case study

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Abstract

This paper examines the environmental and economic impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flow and flash flood in four villages of Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand Himalaya. On 18th July 2021 at 8:30 p.m., a cloudburst took place on the top of the Hari Maharaj Parvat, which triggered a huge debris flows and flash floods, affecting 143 households of four villages of downstream areas. Immediately after the cloudburst occurred, the authors visited four affected villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror. A structured questionnaire was constructed and questions were framed and asked from 143 heads of affected households on the impact of debris flows and flash floods on people’s life, set - tlements, cowsheds, bridges, trees, forests, and arable land in and around the villages. The volume of debris, boulders, pebbles, gravels, and mud was assessed. It was noticed that all four villages got lots of destructions in terms of loss of life—people and animals, and property damage—land, crops, and infrastructural facilities. This study shows that the location of the settlements along with the proximity of the streams, which are very violent during the monsoon season, has led to the high impact of debris flow on the affected villages. We suggest that the old inhabited areas, which are located in the risk zones, can be relocated and the new settlements can be constructed in safe places using suitability analyses. Keywords: Cloudburst, Debris flow, Flash flood, Calamity, Impact, Himalaya Introduction in the mountainous regions, causing large-scale destruc- Cloudburst, a geo-hydrological hazard, refers to a sud- tion of people, land, and property (Houghton et al. 1996; den and heavy rainfall that takes place within a short Wang et  al. 2014; Mayowa et  al. 2015; Malla et  al. 2020; span of time and a particular space (Sati 2013). The inten - Sim et al. 2022). Similarly, the Himalayan region is prone sity of rainfall is often more than 100  mm/h (Das et  al. to the occurrences of cloudburst-triggered hazards, caus- 2006). The disruptive events, cloudbursts occur dur - ing huge loss of life and property and degradation of for- ing the monsoon season in the Himalaya and trigger est and arable lands (Bohra et al. 2006; Allen et al. 2013; debris flows, flash floods, landslides, and mass move - Balakrishnan 2015; Ruiz-Villanueva et al. 2017). ments (Fig.  1). Fragile landscape, rough and rugged ter- The Uttarakhand Himalaya, one of the integrated parts rain, and precipitous slope accentuate the magnitude of of the Himalaya, is the most fragile landscape and prone geo-hydrological hazards. Cloudburst-triggered debris to geo-hydrological hazards—cloudbursts, avalanches, flows, flash floods, landslides, and mass movements have and glacier bursts (Sati 2019). It receives many hazards become more intensive and frequent worldwide, mainly mainly cloudburst-triggered debris flows, flash floods, landslides, and mass movements during the monsoon season every year. The intensity, frequency, and sever - *Correspondence: sati.vp@gmail.com ity of these hazards have been observed to increase dur- Department of Geography and Resource Management, Mizoram ing the recent past. Devi (2015) stated that the changing University (A Central University), Aizawl 796004, India © The Author(s) 2022. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http:// creat iveco mmons. org/ licen ses/ by/4. 0/. Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 2 of 11 Fig. 1 Cloudburst-triggered hazards in the Uttarakhand Himalaya monsoon patterns and increasing precipitation in the construction of settlements and infrastructural facilities Himalaya are associated with catastrophic natural haz- on the fragile slopes and along the river valleys have also ards. However, these hazards are the least understood caused severe hazards. The Uttarakhand region is home because of the remoteness of the areas and lacking mete- to world-famous pilgrimages and natural tourism. Mass orological stations (Thayyen et al. 2013). tourism during the rainy season enhances the intensity of The Uttarakhand Himalaya has many eco-sensitive disasters. zones, vulnerable to natural hazards mainly for geo- Several studies have been carried out on glacier-bursts hydrological hazards. Every year, many cloudburst and cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods events occur here, cause to roadblocks, land degrada- in the Himalaya (Shugar et  al. 2021; Byers et  al. 2018; tion, forest and cropland loss, and losses of life and Cook et al. 2018; Asthana and Sah 2007; Bhatt 1998; Joshi infrastructural facilities. One of the most devastating and Maikhuri 1997; NIDM 2015; IMD 2013; Khanduri cloudburst-triggered debris flow events of this century et  al. 2018; Sati 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2018a, b, 2020; occurred on the night of 16th and 17th June 2013 in the Naithani et al. 2011). These studies were conducted from famous Hindu pilgrimage ‘Kedarnath’, which killed more broader perspectives, mostly covering the entire Hima- than 10,000 people and devastated the entire Mandakini laya. However, the present paper looks into the case and Alaknanda river valleys (Upadhyay 2014; Sati 2013). study of four villages of the Uttarakhand Himalaya, which The entire region had received 16 major geo-hydrological were severely affected and damaged by cloudburst-trig - and terrestrial hazards within the last 50 years (Bhambri gered debris flows and flash floods, which occurred on et al. 2016). Some of the devastating cloudburst-triggered July 18th, 2021. It analyses the environmental impact of debris flows and flash floods that occurred in the Utta - cloudbursts in terms of forest and fruit trees dislocation, rakhand Himalaya are Rudraprayag on 14th September land degradation, and soil erosion—arable, forests, and 2012, Munsiyari on 18th August 2010, Kapkot on 19th barren land of the four affected villages. It also evaluates August 2010, Nachni on 7th August 2009, Malpa and the human and economic losses like the killing of people, Ukhimath on 17th August 1998, Badrinath on 24th July loss of existing crops, and damage of houses and cow- 2004, and the Alaknanda River valley on 1970. About sheds, respectively. The study suggests policy measures 20,000 people died and a huge loss of property took place to risk reduction and rehabilitation of settlements from due to these calamities (Das 2015). It has been noticed danger zones to safer areas after suitability analysis. that these catastrophic events occurred mainly during the three months of the monsoon season—July, August, Study area and September. The Uttarakhand Himalaya is located in the  north of Debris flows and flash floods caused by glacier- India and south of the Himalaya.  It is also called the bursts incidences were although not much frequent Indian Central Himalayan Region. Out of the total 93% and intensive yet, during the recent past, their number mountainous area, 16% is snow-capped, called the has increased owing to changes in the climatic condi- Greater Himalaya. The terrain is undulating and pre - tions. The increasing number of infrastructural facilities cipitous and the landscape is fragile, vulnerable to natu- on the valley bottom has accelerated damages owing to ral hazards. This catastrophic event occurred in the exposed elements in risk-prone areas (Sati 2014; ICI- four villages of Uttarkashi district. The Uttarkashi town MOD 2007a, b; Chalise and Khanal 2001; Bhandari lies about 10  km downstream of the affected villages. A 1994; Uttarakhand 2017). Many drivers exist, which National Highway number 108, connecting Haridwar and affect the severity of cloudburst-triggered hazards in Gangotri, is passing through Uttarkashi town. The four the Uttarakhand Himalaya. Growing population and the affected villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 3 of 11 are located in the upper Bhagirathi catchment, which the monsoon season when a heavy downpour occurs. is prone to geo-hydrological hazards. The slope gradi - Therefore, heavy losses of life and property in these areas ent of these villages varies from 15° to 70°. Indravati is a are common, taking place every year. perennial stream, a tributary of the Bhagirathi River that meets Bhagirathi from its left bank. All three Gadheras Methodology (streams)—Mando, Diya, and Siror are seasonal but vio- This study was empirically tested and a qualitative lent during the monsoon season. Nirakot (1530 m) village approach was employed to describe data. A struc- is located in the middle altitude of the Hari Maharaj Par- tured questionnaire was constructed. The main ques - vat (2350 m) in a steep slope, Mando village (1180 m) is tions framed and asked from the heads of households located on the left bank of the Bhagirathi River along the were—human and animal death, damage to self prop- Mando Gadhera with gentle to a steep slope, Kankrari erty—houses and cowsheds, and existing crops—cereals, (1620 m) village is located on the moderate to the gentle fruits, and vegetables. Loss to public properties such as slope on the bank of the Diya Gadhera, and Siror village bridges, public institutions, and forest land was assessed. (1280  m) is situated on the left bank of both Bhagirathi Based on the questions framed, we surveyed 143 heads and Siror Gadhera with gentle to the steep slope (Fig. 2). of households of four villages, which were partially or One of the prominent eco-sensitive zones of the Utta- fully affected due to cloudburst-triggered debris flow. rakhand Himalaya, the ‘Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone’ These villages are Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror. is 120  km long, spanning from Uttarkashi to Gaumukh, To assess the debris and the damaging areas, the authors along the Bhagirathi River valley (Sati 2018a, b). The rural travelled from the source areas to the depositional zones people depend on the output of the traditional farming and measured the volume of debris—boulders, pebbles, systems, often face intensive natural hazards. The settle - sands, and soils using a formula; circumference = 2πR ments are located either on the fragile and steep slopes and area = π * R . The slope gradient, accessibility, eco - or on the banks of streams, which are very violent during nomic conditions, and climate of the villages were Fig. 2 Location map of cloudburst source and hit areas and their surroundings Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 4 of 11 assessed and based on which, the susceptibility analysis four villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kankrari, and Siror of of the villages was carried out. The villages were divided Uttarkashi district, located down slopes of the hilltop into very high susceptibility, high susceptibility, and mod- and close to the Uttarkashi town, were severely affected erate susceptibility levels. Both environmental degrada- due to debris flow (Table  2). At the cloudburst hit area, tion and economic losses in four villages were assessed. it formed three gullies, which later on merged into three We used Geographical Positioning System (GPS) to streams, along which these villages are located. Debris, obtain the data of altitude, longitude, and latitude. Two from the source i.e. hilltop of Hari Maharaj Parvat, maps—case study villages and the major cloudburst inci- equally flew in three directions. Since the cloudburst dences—2020 and 2021 were prepared and data were event occurred at 8:30 p.m., the people did not have time also presented using graphs. Photographs of four villages to move with their movable property and therefore, the were used to present the destruction of villages due to the magnitude of damage was enormous. cloudburst event. The villages are located from the altitudes of 1180  m (lowest) to 1620 m (highest). Mando village is located at Results and analysis 1180  m, Kankrari village at 1620  m, Nirakot at 1530  m, Major cloudburst incidences in the Uttarakhand Himalaya and Siror has 1280  m altitude. The two villages—Nira - Past incidences depict that the Uttarakhand Hima- kot and Mando have west-facing slopes, Kankrari has a laya suffered tremendously due to cloudburst-triggered south-facing slope, and Siror has a north-facing slope. calamities. We gathered data on the major cloudburst These villages are located along the tributaries of the incidences in Uttarakhand in the monsoon seasons of Bhagirathi River, with 2 to 5  km distance from the road. 2020 and 2021 from the state disaster relief force (SDRF), The intensity and volume of debris were different in dif - Dehradun. From May to September 2020, 13 major ferent villages, therefore, the casualties and losses were cloudburst incidences were noticed in Uttarakhand also varied. The villages are surrounded by agricultural (Table  1). These incidences resulted in the death of 22 and forestlands. The farmers mainly grow subsistence people and 77 animals, and 19 houses were fully dam- cereal crops—paddy, wheat, pulses, oilseeds, fruits, and aged. Similarly, from May to September 2021, 17 major vegetables. Forest types comprise pine (sub-tropical) and cloudburst incidences were occurred in the Uttarakhand oak and coniferous forests (temperate), used for fodder, Himalaya, resulting in the death of 34 people and 144 firewood, and wild fruits. animals, and 106 houses were buried. Besides, it caused Located at the high-risk zones, these villages face sev- a huge loss to public property and landscape degradation. eral disaster incidences every year. Out of the total 143 The economic losses in 2021 were much higher than heads of households surveyed, more than 80% of heads the losses in 2020 (Fig.  3). In 2021, the frequency and were in favour of rehabilitating them in the safer areas. intensity of cloudburst-triggered calamities were also They wanted to relocate their houses and cowshed within higher. The loss of animals was quite high both the years. the village territory with financial assistance from the Houses that collapsed due to calamity were six times state government. The streams, along which the settle - higher in 2021 than in 2020. The loss of human life was ments are constructed, are fragile and highly vulnerable substantial in both years. Several bridges were washed to landslide hazards. Further, the cloudburst incidences away. are increasing due to climate change, the heads of house- District-wise major cloudburst events of 2020–2021 are holds perceived. shown in the map of the Uttarakhand Himalaya (Fig.  4). Figure  5 shows four villages—Nirakot, Mando, Kank- A total of 30 major cloudburst incidences were recorded, rari, and Siror, which were severely affected by cloud - out of which, 17 occurred in 2021. The Uttarkashi dis - burst-triggered debris flow and flash flood. The volume of trict received the highest incidences (07), followed by debris and boulders can be seen in all the villages. These the Chamoli district (05). Dehradun and Pithoragarh dis- villages are surrounded by dense sub-tropical and tem- tricts have recorded 04 incidences each. Rudraprayag 03 perate forests that vary from pine to mixed-oak and deo- and Tehri, Almora, Bageshwar have recorded 01 each. It dar. Kharif crops were growing in the arable land whereas has been observed that cloudburst-triggered incidences a large cropland has been washed away. mainly occurred in remote places along the fragile river valleys and middle slopes. Impact of cloudburst‑triggered debris flow and flash flood Environmental impact Case study of affected villages The environmental impact of cloudburst-triggered debris On July 18, 2021, a cloudburst hits the Hari Maharaj flow and flash flood in four villages of Uttarkashi district Parvat (hilltop) at an altitude of 2350  m at 8:30  p.m., was analyzed (Table  3). The major variables were the which triggered huge debris flows and flash floods. The number of forest trees dislocated, total land degradation, S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 5 of 11 Table 1 Major cloudbursts occurred in Uttarakhand in 2020 and 2021. Source: SDRF (2021) Date of occurrence Cloudburst hit area Casualties April–August 2020 April 23, 2020 Kotdwar (Pauri district) Low-lying areas were flooded and arable land was washed away April 27, 2020 Naugaon and Mori (Uttarkashi district) Five houses were partially damaged and agricultural land flown July 14, 2020 Dharchula (Pithoragarh) Landslide on the road connecting India–Tibet boarder July 19, 2020 Madkot and Tanga (Pithoragarh) Three people were killed and six injured July 20, 2020 Bata, Sirtaul, and Munsiyari Eight houses were buried, three people killed, 10 cattle died, and bridges and farmlands washed away July 28, 2020 Banagapani (Uttarkashi) 47 cattle died July 28, 2020 Ghat (Chamoli district) Three houses flown, cowsheds collapsed, and three people died August 9, 2020 Gangi village ( Tehri) 20 cattle were buried August 10, 2020 Sirwadi (Rudraprayag) Seven houses were fully damaged August 10, 2020 Bageshwar A house was collapsed and a bridge flown August 18, 2020 Mori village (Uttarkashi) 12 people died August 19, 2020 Near Lakhwar Dam (Uttarkashi) A bridge was collapsed August 24, 2020 Tali-Ansari (Chamoli) One person died and one injured May–July 2021 May 3, 2021 Kumrada, Baldogi, and Kamad (Uttarkashi) Three people died May 3, 2021 Narkota (Rudraprayag) On Three houses damaged and 1-acre arable land was washed away May 3, 2021 Khankra, Fatehpur Kotli, Gairsari Narkota One person died May 11, 2021 Devprayag town Sixteen buildings were collapsed May 20, 2021 Bijnad, Chakrata Three people and 24 animals died May 30, 2021 Bangwari village (Pauri) Two cows died and 0.5-acre agricultural land washed away, exiting crops dam- aged and fruit trees dislocated July 18, 2021* Nirakot One person died, 0.7-acre arable land washed away and three buildings and 5 bridges collapsed July 18, 2021* Mando Three people and two animals died, 1.2-acre arable land washed away, and five buildings and two bridges collapsed July 18, 2021* Kankrari One person died, 20.6-acre arable land was washed away, 11 buildings were dam- aged, and 6 bridges collapsed July 18, 2021* Siror 0.6-acre arable land flown and one bridge collapsed August 07, 2021 Khirsu 50 cattle died, six cowsheds collapsed August 08, 2021 The Valley of Flowers 20-m pathways and a footbridge was washed away August 13, 2021 Marchula (Almora) Houses, cowsheds, water pipes, and a road was washed away August 27, 2021 Bihar ( Vikas Nagar) Vyasi hydropower project was impacted August 30, 2021 Jumma village (Dharchula) Seven people died September 7, 2021 Syunsad village (Pauri) Farmlands and crops were damaged September 20, 2021 Panti village (Chamoli) Houses, shops, and cowsheds were washed away. Karnprayag-Gwaldom road was blocked for several days *Present case study villages land degradation under existing crops, number of fruit affected areas was huge, however, we have measured the trees dislocated, land degradation under arable land, land which was within and surrounding each village. The number of buildings were damaged, number of bridges total land degradation was 52.5 acres with the highest in damaged, and boulders’ volume. Forest trees, which dis- Kankrari (45 acres) and the lowest in Siror (0.5 acres). located were pine in the middle altitude and mixed-oak The land degradation under existing crops was 22.6 acres and deodar in the higher altitude. A total of 770 forest in all four villages, varying from 0.1 acres in Siror to 20.6 trees were dislocated from all four villages, out of which, acres in Kankrari. The total number of fruit trees dislo - 500 were from the Kankrari village (highest). The lowest cated was 486. Land degradation under arable land was trees dislocated were from Siror village (70). The total 22.6 acres. It includes the area under existing crops both land degradation from the cloudburst hit areas to the agriculture and horticulture. A total of 19 buildings were Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 6 of 11 was calculated in Indian Rupees (INR) at the current price. The total number of households affected was 143, of which, 100 households belonged to the Kankrari vil- lage (highest) and three households (lowest) were from Siror village. Four people died due to the calamity—three women from Mando village and 1 man from Kankrari vil- lage. Two cows from Mando village died. The total loss from the collapse of the building was 1.7 million INR, with the highest (1.1 million INR) from Kankrari village. A total of 0.77 million INR was lost due to forest loss, and the loss from existing crops was 3.35 million INR. Loss Fig. 3 Loss of human lives, livestock, houses and bridges due to from dislocation of fruit trees was noted high, which cloudburst in Uttarakhand during the 2020 and 2021 was about 0.5 million INR. A large portion of arable land was flown which value was 11.3 million INR. About 14 million INR was lost due to the collapse of bridges. As damaged whereas a total of 14 bridges, connecting the a whole, about 31.62 million INR was lost due to cloud- affected villages were washed away. burst calamity. Per household loss by the cloudburst calamity was noted 0.22 million INR. Economic impact The economic impact due to cloudburst calamity was Average circumference, area, and volume of boulders tremendous in the forms of a household affected, loss of We calculated the average circumference, area, and human and animal life, building loss, forest loss, loss of volume of boulders in the case study villages using existing crops including fruits, loss of arable land, and a formula: circumference = 2πR; Area = π * R ; vol- loss of bridges (Table  4). The value of all these assets ume = length × width × depth (Table  5). We noticed that Fig. 4 Location map of cloudbursts hit areas in 2020 and 2021 S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 7 of 11 Table 2 Salient geographical feature of cloudburst hit areas. Source: By authors Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari Siror Date of cloudburst 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) 18-07-21 (time: 8:30 p.m.) District Uttarkashi Uttarkashi Uttarkashi Uttarkashi Altitude (m) 1530 1180 1620 1280 Latitude 30° 45′ 23″ N 30° 44′ 09″ N 30° 38′ 56″ N 30° 44′ 27″ N Longitude 78° 25′ 56″ E 78° 27′ 16″ E 78° 27′ 56″ E 78° 29′ 15″ E Slope aspect West-facing West-facing South-facing North-facing Cloudburst hit area Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Hari Maharaj Parvat (2350 m) Distance travel by debris 2 km 4 km 5 km 3.5 km Name of stream Mando Gadhera ( Tributary of Bhagirathi) Mando Gadhera ( Tributary of Bhagirathi) Diya Gadhera ( Tributary of Indravati Siror Gadhera ( Tributary of Bhagirathi) River) Debris composition and size Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and Large boulders, pebbles, gravels, and mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 65 mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 70 mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 40 mud; boulders’ volume ranging from 30 cubic m to 2300 cubic m (boulder-mud cubic m to 2400 cubic m (boulder-mud cubic m to 2200 cubic m (boulder-mud cubic m to 2200 cubic m (boulder-water ratio: 55:45) ratio: 60:40) ratio: 30:70) ratio: 70:40) Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 8 of 11 Fig. 5 Cloudburst affected villages a Nirakot, b Mando, c Kankrari, d Siror; Photo: by authors Table 3 Environmental impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flow and flash flood. Source: by authors Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari village Siror Total Number of forest trees dislocated 100 100 500 70 770 Total land degradation (acre) 2 4 45 0.5 51.5 Land degradation under existing crops (acre) 0.7 1.2 20.6 0.1 22.6 Number of fruit trees dislocated 162 20 300 4 486 Land degradation under arable land (acre) 0.7 1.2 20.6 0.1 22.6 Number of buildings damaged 3 5 11 Nil 19 Number of bridges damaged 5 2 6 1 14 the highest average area of boulders was in Mando vil- diameter of boulders was found in Mando village (6  m), 2 2 lage, which is 28.3 m followed by Kankrari 19.6 m , followed by Kankrari (5  m) and Nirakot (4  m) villages. 2 2 Nirakot 12.57 m , and Siror 7.1 m . In terms of the total The average smallest diameter of boulders was found in volume of debris, it was the highest in Kankrari village, Siror village (3 m). followed by Mando, Nirakot, and Siror villages. Figure  6 shows the average diameter of boulders in Susceptibility analysis the cloudburst-affected villages. We drew the figure Based on the above  description, susceptibility analy- with a scale of 1 cm is equal to 1 m. The average biggest sis of the case study villages was carried out (Table  6). S ati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 9 of 11 Table 4 Economic impact of cloudburst-triggered debris flow Discussion and flash flood. Source: By authors The Uttarakhand Himalaya is highly vulnerable to geo- hydrological disasters because of its geological formation Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari Siror Total (Vaidya 2019). It is an ecologically fragile, geologically Number of affected HHs 22 18 100 03 143 sensitive, and tectonically and seismically very active Loss of human life Nil 3 1 Nil 04 mountain range (Sati 2019). The geo-hydrological Loss of animals (cows) Nil 2 Nil Nil 02 events—cloudbursts and glacier bursts-triggered catas- Building loss (million INR) 0.25 0.45 1.1 Nil 1.7 trophes are very common and devastating. The monsoon Forest loss (million INR) 0.1 0.1 0.5 0.07 0.77 season poses severe threats to natural hazards because of Crops loss (million INR) 0.4 0.8 1.4 0.75 3.35 heavy downpours. About 93% of the Uttarakhand Hima- Loss of fruits (million INR) 0.162 0.02 0.3 0.004 0.5 laya is mountainous mainland, of which 16% is snow- Loss of arable land (million 0.35 0.6 10.3 0.05 11.3 capped. The undulating and  precipitous terrain and INR) remoteness are the most vulnerable for disaster risks. Loss of Bridges (million INR) 5 2 6 1 14 This study reveals that most of the cloudbursts inci - Total (INR) 6.26 3.97 19.6 1.87 31.62 dences in 2020–21 occurred mainly in the remote moun- tainous districts of the Uttarakhand Himalaya. The villages in the Uttarakhand Himalaya are located on the Table 5 Average circumference, area, and volume of boulders. sloppy land and along the river valleys, which are frag- Source: By author ile and very vulnerable to disasters. The rivers flow above Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari Siror danger marks during the monsoon season cause threats to rural settlements. The roads of Uttarakhand are con - Radius (m) 2 3 2.5 1.5 structed along the river banks and on fragile lands. These Diameter (m) 4 6 5 3 roads lead to the highland and river valley pilgrimages Circumference (m) 12.57 18.8 15.7 9.4 where the number of tourists and pilgrims visit every Area (m ) 12.57 28.3 19.6 7.1 year mainly during the monsoon season. There are many Total volume of debris 36,000 48,000 62,000 24,000 locations along the river valleys where the houses are (cubic m) constructed on the debris, deposited by rivers during debris flow events. Therefore, the environmental and eco - nomic losses due to debris flows and flash floods are high. The construction of hydropower projects along the river valleys without using sufficient technology further accen - tuates the vulnerability of debris flows and flash floods. One of the recent examples is the Rishi Ganga tragedy in Chamoli district where more than 200 people died with a huge loss to property (Sati 2021). We observed that the cloudburst triggered calamity in 2021 was higher than in 2020. The trend of occurring natural hazards has been increasing. Similarly, the intensity and frequency of natu- ral hazards were observed high. The present study shows that the environmental and economic loss in the four villages of the Bhagi- rathi River valley was huge due to cloudburst-triggered debris flows and flash floods. Almost every household Fig. 6 Village-wise average diameter of boulders of the villages were affected by cloudburst calamity. There were large forest and arable land degradation, forest and fruit trees were dislocated, loss of life— human and animal, and the houses and bridges were collapsed. The calamity also poses threat to the future, The main variables of susceptibility were slope gra- in terms of, the large deposition of debris including dient, accessibility of villages, economic conditions boulders, pebbles, and gravels in the villages along the of households, and climatic conditions. We noticed streams and gullies. The rural people are poor and their that Nirakot village has very high susceptibility, Kank- livelihood is dependent on practicing subsistence agri- rari has high, and Siror and Mando have moderate culture. Many of them are living below the poverty line susceptibility. Sati and Kumar Geoenvironmental Disasters (2022) 9:5 Page 10 of 11 Table 6 Susceptibility analysis of case study villages. Source: By authors Variables Nirakot Mando Kankrari (including Sada and Siror Thalan) Slope gradient 30°–55° 30°–55° 30°–45° 20°–30° Accessibility Highly inaccessible Accessible Inaccessible Accessible Economic condition Not favourable Average Not favourable Average Climate Cold in winter Conducive Cold in winter Conducive Susceptibility Very high Moderate High Moderate in these villages. Because the existing crops have been lost, they are facing food insecurity. Further, the psy- Authors’ contributions chological problems are immense. The fear of another The first author analyzed data, prepared maps, and diagrams, and wrote the calamity is always there in the mind of people as all manuscript. The second author conducted a field survey and collected data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. villages are situated in very high to moderate suscep- tible areas. 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Journal

Geoenvironmental DisastersSpringer Journals

Published: Feb 24, 2022

Keywords: Cloudburst; Debris flow; Flash flood; Calamity; Impact; Himalaya

References