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Himachal at high risk of floods due rise in number of Supra glacial lakes formed by melting snow: Study

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GLOF Threat in Himachal Pradesh

According to the studies carried out by the Centre, number of such lakes in Satluj basin has increased from 38 in 1993-94 to 390 in 2015.

SHIMLA- Scientists have already warned Himachal Pradesh about quakes and, indeed, abnormal seismic activity in the Himalayan belt was observed during past couple of years. Now, the State Centre on Climate Change of the State Council for Science Technology & Environment has warned Himachal Pradesh regarding devastating floods as melting of glaciers is causing formation of more lakes. Outburst of these lakes could unleash massive amount of water leading to floods.

The government has been advised to regularly monitor changes in these lakes, especially the smaller one in the higher Himalayan region of the State. Attention of government in this case is critical for averting any future eventuality in Himachal and loss of precious human lives, said the Centre.

Morain dammed lake in chandra basin

Example: Photographical representation of how the Moraine Dammed Glacial Lake looks like in the Satellite Image-vis-à-vis the Field

To understand the situation, which is in this case is rapid growth in formation of small lakes due to retrieval of glaciers, let’s go through some review.

The state of Himachal Pradesh invariably experiences flash floods, the cause of which is unknown. In the year 2000, the Satluj valley experienced the heaviest floods causing economic loss of more than 800 crores. The cause of this flood event was not known to the experts that whether the floods were caused by cloud bursting or due to Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) phenomena as it started from the Tibetan Himalayan Region.

GLOF Threat in Himachal Pradesh

Satellite and Field photograph of Moraine Dammed lake at the Snout of the Geepang Gath Glacier in Chandra Basin,District Lahaul & Spiti, H.P.

The formation of landslide dammed lakes in high altitude zones such as Parachoo in the upper catchment of Spiti basin in Tibet caused tremendous threat to the life and property located in the downstream areas since its inception in the year 2004.

The recent tragedy of 2013 in the Uttrakhand Himalaya has also been correlated with the bursting of a lake having a total area of about 08 hectare in front of the snout of the Chorabari glaciers that caused widespread damage in the downstream areas besides the heavy rainfall in the area.

Causes and Threats of GLOF

As per various studies carried out in the past, Himalayan glaciers are in a state of general retreat since 1850. In the Himalayas, during the retreating phase a large number of lakes are being formed either at the snout of the glacier as a result of damming of the morainic material known as moraine dammed lakes or supra glacial lakes formed in the glacier surface area.

Most of these lakes are formed by the accumulation of vast amounts of water from the melting of snow and by blockade of end moraines located in the down valleys close to the glaciers. In addition, the lakes can also be formed due to landslides causing artificial blocks in the waterways. The sudden break of a moraine/block may generate the discharge of large volumes of water and debris from these glacial lakes and water bodies causing flash floods namely GLOF.

The sudden bursts of lakes can happen due to erosion, a buildup of water pressure, an avalanche of rock or heavy snow, an earthquake, or if a large enough portion of a glacier breaks off and massively displaces the waters in a glacial lake at its base. There are number of such events that have happened in Nepal Himalayas but no such event has been reported so far from Indian Himalayas.

According to the State Centre on Climate Change of the State Council for Science Technology & Environment, which has been carrying different studies in the Himachal Himalaya since 1993, number lakes has increased manifold in last two decades.

Lake Formation Increasing River Basins

Satluj Basin

GLO Floods In Himachal Pradesh

According to the studies carried out by the Centre, number of such lakes in Satluj basin has increased from 38 in 1993-94 to 390 in 2015.

Out of these 390 lakes, 42 lakes have area more than 10 hectare, 45 between 5-10 hectare, and remaining 303 lakes have an area less than 5 hectare.

Chenab Basin

Chenab Basin Glacier Lakes

Likewise the Chenab basin which mainly originates from the Himachal Himalaya, total number of lakes has increased from 116 in 2013 to 192 in 2015, which is almost four times than the number of lakes identified during 2001.
Out of these 192 lakes, 04 lakes have area more than 10 hectare, 6 lakes between 5-10 hectare and 182 are the small ones having area less than 5 hectare.

Beas Basin

Beas Basin Glacier Lakes
In the Beas basin, number of lakes has gone up from 67 lakes during 2013 to 89 lakes in 2015, revels satellite data. Further analysis of these 89 lakes reveals that 80 lakes are smaller one having area less than 5 hectare, 07 lakes with aerial range between 5-10 hectare and 02 lakes which are having area more than 10 hectare.

Ravi Basin

Moranic Lakes in Himacahl PRadesh
The Ravi basin had total 22 lakes in 2013, which has now increased to 34 in 2015. When seen based on aerial distribution ,it is found that 03 lakes are having area more than 10 hectare, only 01 lake is having area between 5-10 hectare and 30 lakes are such which have area less than 5 hectare.

Need of time

Number of lakes in Himalayan River Basins

Based on the above analysis carried out by the Centre for the year 2015, it is evident that there is a considerable increase in the number of moraine dammed lakes (GLOFs) in each basin which reflects that formation of such lakes in the Higher Himalayan region is indicating an increasing trend. The higher number of smaller lakes i.e. lakes with area less than 5 hectare indicates that the effect of the climatic variations is more pronounced on the glaciers of the Himalayan region resulting in the formation of small lakes in front of the glacier snouts due to the damming of the morainic material.

The lakes with area more than 10 hectare and those with area between 5-10 hectare are more vulnerable sites for causing damage in case of bursting of any one of them.

Therefore, a proper monitoring and change analysis of all such lakes in higher Himalayan region of the State is critical for averting any future eventuality in Himachal Pradesh, so that the precious human lives are saved.

Another aspect of this report is about climate change caused by rising carbon emissions. Himachal need to pay attention to check air pollution. Currently, the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his minister hardly believe in theory of global warming or glacier melting. Annoyed over NGT’s ban on fossil fuel vehicles into Rohtang Pass region, the CM had claimed that there are actually no glaciers around Rohtang. Vehicular emissions are excess and widespread with literally no check on it.

Environment

Watch: Baddi’s Kenduwal dumping yard exposes hypocrisy over Swachh Bharat

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Baddi solid waste management plant

Solan: The government agencies in Himachal Pradesh are quite infamous for disrespecting court orders, especially those relating to environmental protection. This time, we have a case where the local civic body first created an illegal dumping yard on a site selected and cleared for an integrated waste management facility and now covering it with soil and mud after the matter reached the State High Court.

In fact, the government does only what the court orders it to do after activists or the common people file petitions. There is a very clear hypocrisy going on over the Swachh Bharat campaign, which is often used to gain political mileage.

So far, the government has given no sign about being serious when it says, “The government is committed to protect and preserve the environment and ecology of the State.”

The ground-level situation of Solid Waste Management (SWM) in Himachal Pradesh can be best used to demonstrate this hypocrisy by both the current and succeeding governments and the public itself. There is no limit to the callousness of the government agencies at both local as well as the state levels.

Baddi MC waste

If we take up a particular case, then Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area in Solan district is perhaps in the worst state. The Municipal Council of Baddi and BBN Development Authority (BBNDA) are responsible for the collection and scientific disposal of waste generated in the area. Both agencies had joined hands with a proposal of managing waste disposal in the BBN area.

The MC and BBNDA were supposed to establish a facility where collected waste could be disposed of scientifically. They had obtained the clearance for the same on August 13, 2015, and were allotted 42 bighas and 13 Biswas of land in Kenduwal.

However, as expected, the facility never came into existence. Instead, the MC and BBNDA began dumping MC waste at the selected site and turned it into a big open dumping yard. Within a couple of years, the life of the locals residing very near to this illegally created dumping site became a hell as every day they faced foul smell, flies, mosquitoes.

The nearest house is located merely at a distance of 30 meters while the Sirsa river floodplain is not far at about 100 meters from the dumping site. The locals, supported by an environmental group Himdhara Collective, approached the local civic body and the district administration several times with their grievance. None of the two disappointed the locals and, as usual, didn’t move a muscle.

About 1200 villagers wrote to the President of India after they were disappointed by their own government. 

The State Pollution Control Board confined itself to issuing repeated notices to the local bodies to solve the grievance of the locals. While the MC and BBNDA didn’t care about these notices, the HP PCB did not proceed to take proper action.

Very recently, the matter reached the State High Court pleading for justice.

In the interregnum, we direct that no garbage shall be dumped into the land owned by the present petitioner or dumped at any other site, save and except, in accordance with law. We further direct the Senior Environmental Engineer of respondent No.3 to visit the site and after inspecting the same, submit his report with regard to the compliance of the statutory provisions,

a bench of then Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goyal had said in its order passsed on October 4, 2018.

However, both responsible bodies violated these orders as well and continued to dump garbage at the same site. The villagers captured videos of the same and wrote an application to the Superintendent of Police, Solan. The SP was informed regarding the violations of the court orders.

Letter to the SP Solan by Kenduwal petitioner

Letter written by villagers to SP Solan

The Court directed the Senior Environmental Engineer of the HP PCB to file a status report regarding this matter within four weeks

As per the report of the Chief Engineer dated October 15, 2018, the MC, Baddi and BBND hardly collect 30-40 percent of total solid waste generated, which is about 50 tons per day in this case. The collected waste is dumped at Kenduwal while remaining can be found scattered near the BBN area.

HP PCB has repeatedly directed the Municipal Council and BBNDA to dispose of the waste in a scientific manner in accordance with the provision of SWR,

2016, the report submitted to the court said.

The Municipal Solid waste is being collected unsegregated and transported to MSW site at Kenduwal where it is being dumped unscientifically. Most of the time it remains exposed in an open atmosphere and sometimes covered with soil layer, which is a breeding place for flies, mosquitoes, rats etc. The nearest human habitation is a house located at about 30 meters from the boundary of the dumping site, whereas the flood plain of river Sirsa is about 100 meters away from the site,

the report said.

The court concluded that despite having a clearance for the proposed facility to dispose of this waste scientifically, the MC and BBNDA failed to perform their duties.

We have gone through the contents of the report and are satisfied that prima facie, Municipal Council, Baddi, as well as Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA), have failed to perform their duties towards collection of solid waste and its dumping in a scientific manner at the MSW disposal site at Kenduwal, for which requisite clearance has been already granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests,

a Bench of Chief Justice Surya Kant and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel directed the MC and BBNDA.

The court also directed the local agencies to take immediate action on the report of the Senior Environmental Engineer.

We direct both the aforesaid Agencies to immediately act upon the report of the Senior Environmental Engineer and submit their respective compliance reports within four weeks. Any delay or defiance will be viewed seriously,

the court directed the MC and BBNDA.

However, the entire waste at the dumping site is being buried under mud and soil.

MC Baddi/BBDNA may be asked to transport the waste as per the past practice of disposing the waste to the Jaypee Plant in Sector 25 of Chandigarh or to Mars Envirotech Ltd. Lalroo (Dera Basssi), Punjab or setting up of ward level compositing/shredding machines till the erection, commissioning and time-bound setting up of Solid Waste Management facility at Kenduwal Baddi, for the cluster of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area,

the report submitted to the court said.

According to the 2011 Census, the total pollutions of the Baddi MC and BBNDA area were 29911 and 29293 respectively while the total amount of waste generated per day was 25.50 tons and 20.30 tons respectively. The number of migrant labourers or workers from other states was not included in this Census. The populations in both the areas have increased by 2018, which implies growth in a waste generation too. But the responsible government bodies, as well as the district administration, are completely blank when it comes to the chapter on waste management. The Solid Waste Rules, 2016, do exist but only in papers.

The report of the PCB Environmental Engineer aptly proves it.

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Environment

Baddi MC and BBNDA first create illegal dumping site, now trying to cover it with mud

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Baddi MC Dumping Site

Solan: The State Government had been bragging about environmental conservation in announcements and speeches. In papers, the status of waste management has improved during the first year of the new Government. The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur says his government is committed to promoting Swachh Bharat campaign as it is the flagship initiative of the current government.

However, on the ground level, the insensitivity and indifference of the government towards environmental protection is only growing. More startling is the way in which the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) and district administrations respond to public complaints regarding illegal dumping of waste.

Rather, the government bodies are violating laws to create illegal dumping sites.

Related Story: Baddi MC turns site of Rs 9.7 crores proposed Waste Management Facility into illegal dumpyard

For the last two years the Municipal Council, Baddi, and BBNDA have openly been dumping municipal waste of Baddi town in Kenduwal village which has become a potential health hazard and nuisance for the residents of nearby villages. Since the last four months, the villagers, distraught by the illegal dump, have been petitioning several authorities to stop the dumping.

Now, the BBNDA, instead of cleaning up and ensuring scientific disposal of the garbage, is covering the illegal dump yard with mud and soil. JCB machines are simply grabbing mud/soil from nearby and throwing it on the dumped waste with an intention to bury it.

Last week we met with the BBNDA officials and asked them to stop putting the garbage there. Not only are they continuing to dump the garbage but also put piles of mud to cover the stinking heaps of garbage during the last five days. We are being told that the area will now be turned into a shed and our problem will be solved

said Ghulam Nabi a resident of Kenduwal in front of whose home the piles of garbage has come up.

It needs to be noted that the BBNDA had proposed an Rs.9.7 crore Integrated Solid Waste Management facility in the area in 2012 and obtained a clearance for the same in 2015. But for the last three years, it made no move to set up the plant and was dumping in violation of the Solid Waste Management guidelines 2016 as well as the environment clearance conditions.

Related Story: Families living in inhuman, hazardous conditions due to Baddi MC’s dumping ground

On August 12 and 13, the Sirsa River flooded and the dumping site, which is adjacent to the river became waterlogged making the rotting garbage stink badly. The boundary wall was then broken to release the water from the dumping site and the contaminated water eventually made its way into the Sirsa River.

Now they are just burying the garbage and the leachate will contaminate the groundwater too

, said Ramanathan of Himdhara Collective a watchdog group that monitors environmental issues in Himachal.

The State PCB has sent about five notices to the Baddi MC, which were not entertained at all. Despite that, the PCB never proceeded to take action and continue to supply notices.

Through an RTI application we have learned that the Regional Office of PCB in Baddi has served five show cause notices to the Municipal Council in this regards but no further actions were taken,

he added

The BBNDA, in a statement in a newspaper on September 19, has claimed that it has finally identified the firm from Ludhiana for setting up the Solid Waste Management facility.

If they have identified a company to set up the disposal plant why did they cover up the garbage, rather than letting the company take care of it. This is not a solution and neither is it in compliance with the guidelines of solid waste management,

said Ramanathan.

While BBNDA has gone into damage control mode, it still seems least concerned about the laws or the demands of the people.

Our demand is clear, we want this nuisance removed and a proper waste management plant should be set up in an appropriate location. Not near the river or in front of people’s homes,

added Nabi

The Solid Waste Management Rules have clear criteria regarding the selection of a site for waste management plants and landfills, which cannot be on floodplains or near habitations.

Municipal Solid waste has become a serious nuisance across the state of Himachal and a National Green Tribunal appointed committee has recently asked all states to formulate their waste management plans in compliance with SWM rules within a month,

said Manshi Asher of Himdhara Collective.

Long-term solution of solid waste requires an integrated approach involving resident welfare associations of municipal areas, waste pickers and municipal bodies. Decentralised segregation and disposal at source would help to reduce the quantum of waste,

Asher added.

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Environment

After NGT orders, Govt forms Special Task Force to check pollution in Ghaggar tributaries

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stf for ghaggar river pollution

Shimla: Bound by the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal on August 7, 2018, the Himachal Pradesh Government has constituted Special Task Forces (STFs) at the state and district levels to check discharge of effluents in into the tributaries of river Ghaggar.

The National Green Tribunal, in its order, had directed the chief secretaries of Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh to form STFs to deal with the pollution in the said river within a month.

It’s pertinent to mention that the neighbouring States have been blaming unlawful discharges of effluents from the industries established in Kala Amb into Markanda river. The pollution in the tributaries is reaching alarming levels. The court had to take Suo motu cognizance in the matter and pass orders to the state governments.

The NGT had also given directions regarding the officials to be included into these STFs. The will of the government in this entire process was completely missing.

The District level STF will identify the persons responsible for discharging of industrial and municipal effluents causing water pollution in river Ghaggar and its tributaries and will submit a monthly action taken the report to the State level STF, the government informed.

It said the State level STF will furnish a quarterly report or an action taken report to the Central Pollution Control Board. These reports will be uploaded on the websites of the State PCB as well as the Department of Environment, Science and Technology.

The state-level special task will include the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Environment, Science and Technology), Additional Chief Secretary (Urban Development), Member Secretary, H.P. state pollution control board as the Member Secretary of the State Level STF.

The officers in the district Level Special Task Force for Solan and Sirmour will include concerned Deputy Commissioners, the nominee of the concerned district and Session Judge, concerned Superintendent of Police, executive officer of the local bodies of concerned district, Regional officer, State Pollution Control Board of the concerned district.

Ghaggar river originates from the Shivalik Hills and passes through Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan before entering Pakistan.

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