Tuesday, July 2, 2013

58.The Deluge in Uttarakhand


My friend Rameshwar showed me this passage from Jim Corbett’s ‘The Pilgrim Road’ included in ‘The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’. It is worthwhile quoting the para here:

‘Three days journey up the left bank of the Ganges and you  have reached the ancient capital of Garhwal, Shreenagar, an historic, religious, and trading centre  of considerable imporatance and of great beauty, nestling in a wide, open valley surrounded by high mountains. It was here, in the year 1805, that the forebears of the Garhwali soldiers who have fought so gallantly in two world wars made their last and unsuccessful stand against the Gurkha invaders, and it is a matter of great regret to the people of Garhwal that their ancient city of Sreenagar, together with the palaces of their kings, was swept away to the last stone, by the bursting of the Gohna Lake dam in 1894. This dam, caused by a landslide in the valley of the Birehi Ganga, a tributary of the Ganges, was 11,000’ wide at the base, 2000’ wide at the summit, and 900’ high, and when it burst, ten billion cubic feet of water were  released in the short space of six hours. So well was the bursting of the dam timed that, though the flood devastated the valley of the Ganges right down to Hardwar and swept away every bridge, only one family was lost, the members of which had returned to the danger-zone after having been forcibly removed from it.’

Were the Britishers more humane and better administrators than the Indians?

Not that the warning was not there. The Commandant of a Training Centre evacuated the entire School before it was washed away the next morning. Did he have some information that the District Administration did not have?  The  overflowing of Vasukital glacier lake hs an uncanny resemblance to the  bursting of the Gohna Lake dam. June 15 was enough of a warning before the real disaster in the morning of June 16. True, the weatherman’s warning often becomes a routine, but it was there. But it is easy to have a hindsight. 

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