Floods of North India (2005)

In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst centered on the North Indian state of Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides becoming the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. The reason the floods occurred was that the rainfall received was on a larger scale than the regular rainfall the state usually received. The debris blocked up the rivers, causing major overflow. The main day of the flood is said to be on 16 June 2013. Though some parts of Himachal PradeshHaryanaDelhi and Uttar Pradesh in India experienced the heavy rainfall, some regions of Western Nepal and some parts of Western Tibet also experienced heavy rainfall, over 89% of the casualties occurred in Uttarakhand. As of 16 July 2013, according to figures provided by the Uttarakhand government, more than 5,700 people were “presumed dead. This total included 934 local residents.

floods of north india
A submerged statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva stands amid the flooded waters of river Ganges at Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 17, 2013. Early monsoon rains have swollen the Ganges, India’s longest river, swept away houses, killed at least 60 people and left tens of thousands stranded, officials said on June 18, 2013. The picture was taken June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA)

Destruction of bridges and roads left about 100,000 pilgrims and tourists trapped in the valleys leading to three of the four Hindu Chota Char Dham pilgrimage sites. The Indian Air Force, the Indian Army, and paramilitary troops evacuated more than 110,000 people from the flood-ravaged area.

From 14 to 17 June 2013, the Indian state of Uttarakhand and adjoining areas received heavy rainfall, which was about 375% more than the benchmark rainfall during a normal monsoon. This caused the melting of Chorabari Glacier at the height of 3800 metres, and eruption of the Mandakini River which led to heavy floods near Gobindghat, Kedar DomeRudraprayag districtUttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal, and acute rainfall in other nearby regions of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Tibet.

The upper Himalayan territories of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are full of forests and snow-covered mountains and thus remain relatively inaccessible. They are home to several major and historic Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage sites besides several tourist spots and trekking trails. Heavy rainfall for four consecutive days as well as melting snow aggravated the floods. Warnings by the India Meteorological Department predicting heavy rains were not given wide publicity beforehand, causing thousands of people to be caught unaware, resulting in huge loss of life and property.

About 6000 citizens of Nepal were visiting the Indian region, of which 1,000 were rescued as of 22 June 2013. Flooding of the Dhauliganga and the Mahakali rivers had caused extensive damage, with reports of 128 houses and 13 government offices swept away and over 1000 people homeless. A bridge that joins the India-Nepal border is highly damaged or destroyed.

The ArmyAir ForceNavyIndo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Border Security ForceNational Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Public Works Department and local administrations worked together for quick rescue operations. Several thousand soldiers were deployed for the rescue missions. Activists of political and social organizations were also involved in the rescue and management of relief centers. The national highway and other important roads were closed to regular traffic. Helicopters were used to rescue people, but due to the rough terrain, heavy fog and rainfall, maneuvering them was a challenge. By 21 June 2013, the Army had deployed 10,000 soldiers and 11 helicopters, the Navy had sent 45 naval divers, and the Air force had deployed 43 aircraft including 36 helicopters. From 17 to 30 June 2013, the IAF airlifted a total of 18,424 people – flying a total of 2,137 sorties and dropping/landing a total of 3,36,930 kg of relief material and equipment.

Even after a week, dead bodies had not been removed from Kedarnath town, resulting in water contamination in the Kedarnath valley and villagers who depend on spring water suffered various types of health problems like fever, diarrhea. When the flood receded, satellite images showed one new stream at Kedarnath town. No damage at the Kedarnath Temple occurred. The Uttarakhand Government announced that due to the extensive damage to the infrastructure, the temple will be temporarily closed to regular pilgrims and tourists for a year or two, but the temple rituals will still be maintained by priests. The Temple opened for pilgrims on Sunday, 4 May 2014.

Landslides, due to the floods, damaged several houses and structures, killing those who were trapped. The heavy rains resulted in large flashfloods and massive landslides. Entire villages and settlements such as Gaurikund and the market town of Ram Bada, a transition point to Kedarnath, had been obliterated, while the market town of Sonprayag suffered heavy damage and loss of lives. Pilgrimage centers in the region, including Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, the hallowed Hindu Chardham (four sites) pilgrimage centers, are usually visited by thousands of devotees, especially after the month of July onwards. Over 70,000 people were stuck in various regions because of damaged or blocked roads. People in other important locations like the Valley of flowers, Roopkund and the Sikh pilgrimage center Hemkund were stranded for more than three days. National Highway 58, an important artery connecting the region was also washed away near Jyotirmath and in many other places. Because summers have a number of tourists, the number of people impacted is substantial. For more than three days, stranded pilgrims and tourists were without rations or survived on little food.

On 25 June, one of 3 IAF Mil Mi-17 rescue helicopters returning from Kedarnath, carrying 5 Air Force Officers, 9 of the NDRF, and 6 of the ITBP crashed on a mountainous slope near Gauri Kund, killing all on board. The deceased soldiers were given a ceremonial Guard of honor by Home minister of India, at a function organized by the Uttarakhand State Government.

Indo Tibetan border police (ITBP) a Force which guards the Indo China borders on the high Himalayas with its 3 Regional Response Centers (RRCs) based at Matli (Uttarkashi), Gauchar (Chamoli) and Pithoragarh swung into action and started rescue and relief operation. 2000 strong ITBP force with its mountaineering skills and improvisation methods started rescue of stranded pilgrims. It was a simultaneous effort by ITBP at Kedar ghati, Gangotri valley, and Govind ghat areas. According to official figures by ITBP, they were able to rescue 33,009 pilgrims in 15 days on their own from extremely remote and inaccessible areas.Before Army or Air Force called in, being deployed in the nearby areas, ITBP took the first call and saved many lives.

Bihar Floods of 2008

The 2008 Bihar flood was one of the most disastrous floods in the history of Bihar, an impoverished and densely populated state in India. The Kosi embankment near the Indo-Nepal border (at Kusaha VDC, Sunsari district, Nepal) broke on 18 August 2008. The river changed course and flooded areas which had not been flooded in many decades. The flood affected over 2.3 million people in the northern part of Bihar.

On 18 August 2008, heavy monsoon rains and poor maintenance caused a breach in the Kosi embankment. Water passed through the breach at an estimated 129,800 m³/second, flooding many villages in Nepal and hundreds of villages in northern Bihar. The flood submerged most of the Kosi alluvial fan area, which is very fertile, with a dense agrarian population.

Bihar floods of 2008
Morigaon: Wild buffaloes marooned at the inundated Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Morigaon district of Assam on Monday. PTI Photo (PTI8_14_2017_000181B)

The Kosi River‘s upper basin in southern Tibet and eastern Nepal drains some 60,000 km² of mountainous terrain, a region that tectonic forces are elevating by about 1 cm a year. If erosion keeps pace with geologic uplift, an estimated 600 million cubic meters of sediment would be carried downstream in an average year. However, empirical measurements of the river’s sediment load have yielded estimates of 100 million cubic meters annually, indicating that the area is rising.

River gradient ranges from more than 10 meters/km for major upper tributaries in the mountains to as little as 6 cm/km as the lower Kosi nears the Ganges. As the gradient decreases on the plains, current slows and turbulence that holds sediments in suspension diminishes. Sediments settle out and are deposited on the riverbed. This process eventually raises a channel above the surrounding terrain. The river breaks out, seeking lower terrain, which it again proceeds to elevate by deposition. This creates a cone-shaped alluvial fan. The Kosi alluvial fan is one of the largest in the world, covering some 15,000 km² and extending 180 km from the outermost foothills of the Himalayas to the Ganges river valley.

Flood waters naturally spread out over the surface of this cone. Flows over 25000 m³/s have been measured where the Kosi exits the Himalayan foothills, enough to create a flow of water 30 km wide. At this rate, in one week enough water would accumulate to cover the entire mega fan to a depth of 1.5 meters.

Preventative flood control measures include upstream reservoirs that can also serve irrigation needs and produce hydroelectric power. However, in Nepal these are mostly in the planning stages.[11] The flood control measures mainly consist of downstream embankments meant to confine the river to a fixed channel. In theory, the faster flow along this channel would carry high flows away and keep sediments in suspension.

On 18 August 2008 one of the man-made embankments got failed. The river reverted from the prescribed western channel to an old channel near the centre of its alluvial fan. The river spread out widely and flooded towns, villages, and cultivated fields on the densely populated alluvial fan. Recurrent flooding on the lower Kosi contributes largely to India’s history of suffering more flood deaths than any other country except Bangladesh, and has earned the Kosi the epithet “The Sorrow of Bihar”.

Flooding occurred throughout the Kosi River valley in northern Bihar, in the districts of SupaulArariaSaharsaMadhepuraBhagalpur, West Champaran and Purnea.

The flood killed 250 people and forced nearly 3 million people from their homes in Bihar. More than 300,000 houses were destroyed and at least 340,000 hectares (840,000 acres) of crops were damaged. Villagers in Bihar ate raw rice and flour mixed with polluted water. Hunger and disease were widespread. The Supaul district was the worst-hit; surging waters swamped 1,000 square kilometres (247,000 acres) of farmlands, destroying crops

It affected six districts in Nepal. Approximately 53,800 Nepalese (11,572 households) were affected by the Koshi floods in Sunsari District, according to the Government of Nepal (GoN). Koshi Wildlife Reserve along the Koshi River was severely impacted by the floods including its wildlife and biodiversity.

In response to the disaster, widely reported as the region’s worst flood in 50 years, Nitish KumarChief Minister of Bihar, met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek his help in dealing with the “catastrophe”.

The Prime Minister declared a “natural calamity” on 28 August and earmarked US$230 million in aid for the region. Rescue operations were carried out by the Indian Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and non-government organizations. Indian Air Force helicopters dropped relief supplies in the worst-hit districts. Mumbai Fire Brigade sent a 22-member disaster management team to help in relief work.

Chief Minister Kumar requested a rehabilitation package of Rs 145 billion from the central government for the flood ravaged Kosi region.

The Bihar government returned funds from Gujarat for relief work because of purported differences with the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi.

On 1 September, describing the floods as a “disaster,” the Dalai Lama gave 1,000,000 rupees to the Bihar government for relief work.

The Government of Bihar initiated Kosi Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Programme covering 30,000 affected families in Saharsa, Supaul and Madhepura district based on a pilot project implemented by ODR Collaborative, a network of organisations, supporting the Government and an owner driven reconstruction policy was formulated to support each family with Rs. 55,000 to construct their own house. After signing an agreement with the World Bank in January 2011, this programme has been upscaled to cover 100,000 families for reconstruction of hazard safe houses.

The cost per house will be Rs. 55,000 ($1200) with an additional cost of Rs. 2,300 ($50) for a toilet and Rs. 5,000 ($110) for solar powered lighting. In cases where beneficiaries do not own land, the Government of Bihar will provide additional assistance of Rs. 5000 ($110) for the people to buy the land. Towards this project, the World Bank is contributing $220 million. The Government of Bihar has also partnered with ODR Collaborative and UNDP to continue the social and technical facilitation and capacity building for this ‘owner driven reconstruction’ programme. Technical guidelines have been brought out to enable owners to build houses with various local materials including bamboo.

The rehabilitation work has been incredibly slow. Out of a total 100,000 houses to be built by the Government in the Kosi region comprising MadhepuraSaharsaand Supaul districts, only 12,500 were built till February 2014.