Uttarakhand: Opening of lake widened to prevent another tragedy
A 30-member team on Monday managed to widen the opening of a lake, formed upstream of the Rishi Ganga river in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, by 15 feet to avert a repeat of the February 7 incident. Earlier the mouth of the stream was 20 feet wide and now stands at 35 feet. The wider opening will reduce pressure on lake walls.
Besides damaging two hydel power projects and killing at least 68 people, the Uttarakhand tragedy also hindered the flow of the Rishi Ganga river, leading to the formation of a lake. There was palpable fear that this lake could also burst, triggering another fateful incident. Taking cognizance, Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Om Prakash formed an expert team, that took a decision after analyzing the lake.
The expert team included personnel from Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), as well as scientists from the Uttarakhand Space Application Centre and Geological Survey of India. On Friday, the team left for the lake site and reached a day later. Navy divers had pegged the lake's depth at eight meter, implying that it housed 50,000 cubic meter of water.
SDRF Commandant Navneet Bhullar explained that widening the lake's opening in the difficult terrain was a daring mission. The efforts have led to more water discharge, he added. "Due to this, the chances of lake burst or Chamoli-like tragedy happening again have been averted. And our team members are still camping there to try to widen the mouth further," he was quoted by HT.
"The special equipment, quick deployable antenna (QDA) based on satellite communication, has been set up there and it is helping us to have real-time communication with the expert team," Bhullar went on.
Separately, Ridhim Aggarwal, DIG, SDRF, and Additional CEO, Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority, said the team is also exploring the possibility of creating more channels. The team is working relentlessly to ensure the lake doesn't reach dangerous water levels. "Wood logs, which are collected at the lake opening and disrupting water flow, are being removed," she said.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat met Union Home Minister Amit Shah, apprising him about the rescue operations. Rawat is learned to have urged Shah to establish a glacier and water resource research center and also provide a helicopter to monitor disaster-prone and border areas of the state. Shah appreciated the state government's efforts and gave his in-principle agreement to Rawat's demands.