What really happened in Uttarakand?

The recent Uttarakand disaster has left more than 800 people dead and many more missing. There have been many stories on what really happened and what really caused this disaster. The media hype over the disaster is slowing down and the reality is emerging.

An article in the Landslide blog of the American Geographical Union looks into the history in the area and looks at the land use changes that have taken place near the “Kendranath temple” over the last 50 years. It uses photographs and satellite imagery to clearly indicate the extent of land use change in terms of haphazard development. It seems that the main reason for the disaster is bad development choices. It is important to note that South Asia Disaster Report (SADR 2008) argued “The disasters, by and large are designed by the conscious and unconscious human interventions, exacerbated by reactive thinking, policy failures and institutional neglect”. The information emerging from Uttarakand reinforces this argument.

Duryog Nivaran feels that the business as usual post disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation in the area would not reduce risk of future disasters unless all agencies involved in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process evaluate the future risks and integrate risk reduction measures in a holistic manner. Furthermore, the state government and the centre could not disregard the environmental and social safeguard issues any longer and development strategies for the area has to rethink before the next tragedy.  


Please read the AGU blog at


 The valley 50 years ago

The temple valley 50 yeasr ago


  The valley after the flood.

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3 Responses to What really happened in Uttarakand?

  1. mathishani says:

    “The relief can replace what is lost, or relief can also be a starting point for new ways of development, development that is protected from disaster risk, development that is climate smart— green and clean—in the long run. No other region needs such “green development” more than our Himalayas.”

    Suggests: All India Disaster Mitigation Institute

    Read: https://duryognivaran.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/els-on-floods-in-uttarakhand.pdf

  2. Nirmani Liyanage says:

    ” The damage caused to the Kedarnath region and downstream villages by the natural destruction resulting from unusual meteorological and geophysical processes was undoubtedly greatly enhanced because of the general environmental degradation caused by the massive and unregulated influx of pilgrims year after year, the haphazard development fueled by tourist traffic, and the unplanned and poor construction of buildings and roads. Given the vulnerability of the region, the town itself has come up in a very dangerous location, points out Petley. Therefore, how much of the destruction in this event was actually man-made is a moot question.”

    From : http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/why-kedarnath-happened/article4894867.ece

    ‘News about disasters, Arguments about who’s responsible’ keeps piling up day by day.. the criticisms always point the finger to general public about ‘violating planning regulations’. But are these planning regulations capable of stopping or controlling disasters in Asian cities? Has anyone proved that the planning measures we follow can solve the problem? Have we ever think of an answer which work for us, our cities? According to me, answer lies in a wise combination of ‘Local knowledge’ and ‘creative thinking in planning’. so called Scientific postmortems will never find the solutions for these ,as the methods or the knowledge that drive these studies can not understand the real causes of these incidents. Because the knowledge used to understand the disasters and all other planning issues in Asia, is not invented in the social- environmental contexts of those incidents, Just borrowing some theories or analysis techniques from the West will not open us a path to solve (or even understand) our own issues. It’s time to look for a new Asian way of understanding our issues and plan for our own unique ways of life…

    Further reference : http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415507394/

  3. asoka says:

    Uttarakand is located in a natural valley and natural flow pattern has been gradually blocked by unplanned man-made structures such as houses and other kinds of buildings etc. When the natural water flow is blocked, the natural flow pattern in a valley is adversely affected. Then, no one can prevent the resulting disasters. Though this flooding may not be directly linked to climate change, since unanticipated precipitation can cause havoc in a day. However, it is possible to reduce risks associated with these natural disasters by timely preventing measures such; modification of existing infrastructures that will facilitate the natural flow of flood water with minimal loss of lives and damage to structures.

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