Indian district hit with flash-flooding from melting Himalayan glacier

A part of a Himalayan glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, leading to massive floods that have killed at least 12 people with fears of 170 more.

News sources from India are reporting that the violent floods below Nanda Devi – the country’s second-highest peak – swept away the small Rishiganga hydroelectric facility and damaged the larger Dhauliganga facility being built by state-firm NTPC.

Over 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups, and police have taken part in rescue operations. Officials have said that their focus was on saving a group of nearly 30 workers who are stuck inside a tunnel at one of the hydropower plants.

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Nanda Devi (Photo: Pixlr)

“The tunnel is filled with debris, which has come from the river. We are using machines to clear the way,” said H. Gurung, a senior official of the paramilitary Indo Tibetan Border Police.

This area is prone to flash floods. In 2013, almost 6,000 people in Uttarakhand died in floods and the latest disaster has prompted calls from environmental groups for a review of power projects in the region. It has also resulted in a push for action on climate change.

In the past two decades, Himalayan glaciers have been melting twice as fast as they were at the end of the 20th century, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald. “In the future, even if global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees, warming in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region will likely be at least 0.3 degrees higher,” a 2019 report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development said.

Professor Lesley Hughes, a councillor with the Climate Council of Australia and a former federal climate commissioner, said that “we have to solve the root cause of the [the situation in the Hindu Kush],” rather than attempting to engineer a solution that can fix the symptoms of climate change.

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