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Uttarakhand Flood Situation is Catastrophic; Large Dams Partially to Blame Says ActionAid


New Delhi

As early and powerful Monsoon rains devastate five districts in northern hill state of Uttarakhand in India, affecting lakhs of people, Debabrat Patra, ActionAid’s regional manager for Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, says “The situation here is catastrophic. People’s houses and animals have been washed away and many roads have simply disappeared. In Rudraprayag, a thousand-year old Hindu temple Kedarnath temple has been badly damaged by a landslide and nearly 75,000 pilgrims are stranded.”

“Our partners in the region have reported that nearly five thousand people are still missing in Kedarnath, presumed dead. People are at a loss as to where to start search and rescue. We expect more rains in the coming days and weeks and the situation may get worse and hinder the search and rescue work underway now,” adds Debabrat Patra.

The region faces harsh winters in about five months time and we are concerned that people may not have enough shelter, warm clothing and food if relief and rehabilitation work do not proceed at a fast pace. ActionAid is urgently assessing what people need both now and to survive the winter.

Uttarakhand saw over 60 hours of continuous and heavy rains coupled with few incidents of cloudbursts at various locations since Friday 14 June to Monday 17 June 2013 which resulted in increasing water level and floods in the two main rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. This is what initially triggered the massive devastation of infrastructure and loss of lives.

“However, the large scale deforestation and massive construction projects, especially large dams and hydro-power projects, have weakened the ecosystem of the region and the accompanying effects of climate change is further galvanizing the destruction. ActionAid is particularly worried about the rampant dam construction all over the state which affects hundreds of villages along the banks of the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and Mandakini (the main rivers feeding into the Ganges) also; with no forest left to hold the earth, the threat of major landslides looms large,” said Sehjo Singh, Director, Programme & Policy, ActionAid India.

“Similar fears had been shared by India’s Comptroller and Auditor General three years ago warning that more than 200 hydropower projects and massive deforestation in the state had overlooked environmental concerns, which could be catastrophic in the event of a flash flood,” she added.

It’s the height of the tourist season, so there are thousands of people here from neighbouring states. The government are sending in helicopters and rescue teams, but not everyone can be reached.

“ActionAid will be concentrating its rescue and relief efforts on local communities. We are particularly concerned about the hard to reach villages in remote areas. Currently our local grassroots partners are conducting rapid assessment of the affected areas, which is proving to be difficult as the communication systems are down and approach roads to many of the affected villages are choked or under water,” said Singh.

“ActionAid would continue to advocate on appropriate fora for greater compliance to various ecological norms which are constantly flouted, regardless of the fact that many of them have been put in place by the government itself,” she added.

Editors’ notes

ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to achieve greater human rights for all and defeat poverty. We believe people in poverty have the power within them to create change for themselves, their families and communities. ActionAid is a catalyst for that change


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