Uttarakhand bore the brunt of nature's wrath in the form on flood but it failed to dampen masses’ spirit, says P.S. Chauhan:
Indeed, when nature turns violent then human have to where to run and hide. And the same was experienced by the people of Uttarakhand, when its major rivers turned violent and inundated one and all. The torrential and incessant rains, which lashed the state, breaking all the records in living memory. The state has so far recorded the cumulative rainfall of 1675 mm. as against the average annual rainfall of 1163. Floods, cloudbursts and landslides, left behind a trail of wide spread devastation of human life, property and ecology. As nature battered the state, all the disaster management measures crumbled down and due to heavy downpour state's river Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Yamuna, Kosi, Sharda, Gola etc., all swelled up and even the small brooks and rivulets, including Ratmau, Solani, Pathri, Kansrau, all overflowed, sweeping away whatever came in their way. Humans, cattle, roads, bridges, water supply lines, trees and everything was swept away by the swollen currents. Large parts of cities, towns, villages and forests were turned into vast pools of water. The Ganga flowed above the danger mark at Haridwar and Rishikesh and was three meters above the danger mark at Bhimgoda Barrage. Such was the force of water that the gate no. 6 of the barrage, made of highly solid iron structure, gave in, resulting in floods like situation in the holy city and Laksar tehsil of the district. The entire Har-ki-Pauri region was submerged in 3-4 feet of water. Water level in the gigantic Tehri dam reached 831.5 meter mark, which is 1.5 meter above its capacity. The authorities released 1000 cusecs water from the dam to maintain its level and as reports poured in that still more water may be discharged from the dam.
As nature continued to wreak havoc, red alert was sounded throughout the state. Almora and Nainital districts bore the maximum brunt of nature's fury, with floods and cloudburst so far taking the toll of 42 lives in Almora alone. The sources in the state administration have confirmed that 172 people have so far met the watery grave, while dozens are still missing.
Around 50,000 people have been evacuated to safer places. The sources also say that the number of cattle which perished in the floods is about 1282, while 3,500 villages have been inundated, affecting 9.35 lacs people and damaging about 10,000 houses. The state administration has also confirmed that more than 22,000 hectares of agricultural land, 1,200 roads and 1,522 drinking water projects have been hit by the natural calamity. "The natural disasters have inflicted a damage of more than Rs. 20,000 crores in the state," says Subhash Kumar, the chief secretary of the state. The power generation in the power stations in the state, including Pathri, Cheela, Koteshwar, Maneri Bhal Phase-I and Phase-II, has been badly hit.
Army has to be called in at the worst affected areas. The paramilitary forces, six columns of the army and 200 personnel of the National Disaster Relief Force were deployed and four helicopters of the army have also been pressed into service. "More than 1,400 villagers, trapped in floods have been rescued by the divers and the NDRF from 20 villages in Laksar tehsil where the caving in of the Bishanpur Kundi - Bhogpur embankment on the Ganga brought deluge in the adjoining areas," says the SSP, Haridwar, Sanjay Gunjyal. "At least nine persons have so far lost their lives in Haridwar district," says the district magistrate, R. Meenakshi Sundaram. The state remained cut off from the rest of the country for many days. Char Dham Yatra had to be stopped as the roads from Rishikesh to Badrinath and other shrines sank at many places and there were heavy landslides.
More than 13,000 pilgrims are stranded on Char Dham yatra route. Road transport was completely thrown out of gear. Haridwar Bijnor national highway, and the national highway between Haridwar and Roorkee and between Dehradun and Delhi were closed for traffic. Due to heavy deposits of silt and water logging on the railway track near the tunnel at Haridwar and at Motichoor near Rishikesh, train services between Haridwar and Dehradun remained disrupted for many days, with hundreds of passengers remaining stranded at Haridwar and Dehradun railway stations.
The chief minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who visited Haridwar and other districts, announced an ex gratia of Rs. 1,00,000 to the next to the kin of the deceased and Rs.50,000 each to those seriously injured. He also demanded that the entire state should be declared by the centre as "disaster hit state". The Governor, Margaret Alva also made an aerial survey of the flood hit districts, including Haridwar. The devastation is of such a vast magnitude that no amount of efforts by the central and the state governments can make up the losses. Ultimately, it is the brave people of the state, accustomed to face the natural disasters with patience and fortitude. Nature has caused incalculable losses, but it has failed to vanquish the heroic spirits of the people of the state. And this is how life always moves on in this state.