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Chamoli disaster 2021 could have been contained, finds study on last year's flood

The study noted that high-quality data with dense seismic array can improve the monitoring of potentially dangerous zones. 

Published: 19th March 2022 04:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th March 2022 08:21 AM   |  A+A-

The washed away Tapovan hydel power project plant after Feb. 7 glacier burst in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand

The washed away Tapovan hydel power project plant after Feb. 7 glacier burst in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

DEHRADUN:  Highlighting the importance of an early warning system, a study by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology revealed that there were seismic precursors two-and-half hours before the avalanche that killed several people in Chamoli last year struck. 

Had the seismic precursors been detected, the loss of lives could have been minimised. The study titled ‘Potential seismic precursors and surficial dynamics of a deadly Himalayan disaster: an early warning approach’ noted that “had there been an early warning system in place, there was enough time for mass evacuation”. 

The study noted that high-quality data with dense seismic array can improve the monitoring of potentially dangerous zones. 

The authors of the report suggested deploying dense seismic network with other early warning parameters in potential danger zones, which could help detect seismic precursors and develop an early warning system that could lead to a timely identifcation of new potentially active zones, which may create a critical situation in the future.

“An integrated early warning perspective with a capability of practical response, communication, education and awareness would provide an effective approach for hazard mitigation,” said the report. 

Last year, a study said the cause of Chamoli flashfloods was a rock and ice avalanche that released energy “equivalent to about 15 Hiroshima atomic bombs”, highlighting the risks associated with the ‘rapid expansion of hydropower infrastructure into increasingly unstable territory’. 

In the study published in the Science, 53 scientists, experts and researchers questioned the long-term sustainability of hydroelectric projects and asserted that they be planned keeping in mind both current and future social and environmental conditions including risks to infrastructure, personnel, and downstream communities. 

Seismicity is an important consideration when locating and constructing hydropower projects in the Himalayan region as many areas there are vulnerable to large earthquakes, the study noted.

The authors added the great magnitude of that event calls for avoiding development in these areas, especially given that we can expect global warming to increase the frequency of earthquakes.

“It is apparent that the tension between conservation on one hand, and the pressures to develop on the other hand are very much alive in Uttarakhand and other Himalayan states,” said the study. 



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