Flash floods: Noticing early signals and minimising the risk of such incidents

By: |
February 10, 2021 4:03 PM

The flash flood incident in Uttarakhand has surely indicated that natural processes like this along with landslides, snow avalanches, lake bursts or cloudbursts can cause mass destruction.

If glaciers are monitored on a regular basis, it would be easier to identify the lakes that are in need of mitigation solutions.

The flash flood incident in Uttarakhand has surely indicated that natural processes like this along with landslides, snow avalanches, lake bursts or cloudbursts can cause mass destruction. This makes it crucial for recognizing early signs for such incidents and working towards minimising the threat of such incidents, further reducing their impact. A report by The IE has highlighted that there are many glacial lakes that are susceptible to causing flooding. Hence, calls for the need to monitor some of these lakes.

The report noted that monitoring on a more regular basis can be the first step when it comes to tackling a threat from these glacial lakes. While there is no need to monitor each and every glacier, one or two benchmark glaciers in every basin can be identified. Studying two glaciers in a basin that are more accessible can help understand all glaciers in the basin or the state. The report said that monitoring via satellites and remote sensing may not be enough. People will have to get on the ground with measuring instruments and understand the situation. Therefore, glaciers that are more accessible should be chosen for study purposes. There is a need for close measuring of the bathymetric changes, changes in water levels, the mechanisms of expansion, discharge balance, along with mass balance and other aspects.

For decision making, it is crucial to have a dataset that tracks the progressive changes. Apart from this, the report highlighted a consolidated state of glaciers in India is required so that year-on-year changes happening can be recorded and looked at.

Other than this, planning in construction-related activities too plays an important role. The report said the recent incident in Uttarakhand may not have direct link with these activities, “but these are not entirely benign.” It added that the Himalayas are young mountain systems as well as extremely fragile. Therefore, even a minor change in orientation of the rocks may become a trigger for landslides. All projects and constructions going on in the region should include the environment impact assessment especially for glaciers.

To be sure, if glaciers are monitored on a regular basis, it would be easier to identify the lakes that are in need of mitigation solutions. Some structural as well as geotechnical measures can be used in order to reduce threat from these lakes. Some channels for gradual and regulated discharge of water from these lakes can also be constructed. This is expected to lessen the pressure on lajes and minimise the chances of a breach. Also, it may lead to reduction in volume of water that goes into the flash flood. The report also proposed setting up of alarm systems at the lakes that can warn people in case of overflow. Moreover, the government can arrange a preparatory response drill that will help people to act in times like these.

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