A month since Chamoli disaster, scientists have reason to anticipate more

Source(s)
The Wire

By Nivedita Khandekar

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The Chamoli disaster drew international attention because, among other reasons, it was clearly a symptom of climate change’s disproportionate impact on the Himalaya. Of the 40,000 or so sq. km over which these mountains spread – creating the third pole, the world’s largest repository of snow and ice outside the two poles – and encompass eight countries, India straddles about 23,000 sq. km. Taken together, this area represents a potential of 3,651 cubic metres of water crucial for almost 40% of its population, resident in the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra basins.

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The GAPHAZ group also observed that a major rock and ice avalanche detached itself at an elevation of about 5,600 m above sea level from a north-facing slope northeast of Trishul Peak, in the Nanda Devi mountain. The reason for this, the group’s members argue, could have been the result of a failure within the mountain’s bedrock and that the glacier ice become entrained with the collapsing block of bedrock. The group predicted that this mass could have set off the floods in the Rishi Ganga river.

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This conclusion is in line with the findings of a four-member team from the G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, which had visited the area shortly after the disaster took place. Amar Ujala reported that this team had found that upstream of Reni village, where the gorge is very narrow, floodwaters had risen as high as 125 metres. The team also found the flood had had an impact all the way up to Karn Prayag, which is more than 100 km downstream from Reni.

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