(Feature image:- Local people trying to crossing the overflowing Jahlma drain with a rope to take an injured person to the hospital. Source: Amar Ujala, July 30, 2021.)
The Himalayan states have been facing reoccurring cloud burst disasters for the past several years. The state of Uttarakhand witnessed 50 such events, 24 pre monsoon[i] and 26 during south west monsoon[ii] season of 2021. This account highlights the situation of the emerging climatic threat in Himachal Pradesh in pre monsoon and monsoon months in 2021.
Here it may be noted that during SW Monsoon months of June to Sept 2021, Himachal Pradesh had 10% below normal rainfall, with 8 of the twelve districts of the state experiencing below normal rainfall. Lahaul and Spiti had the highest deficit at -65%. Among the four districts that had above normal rains, Kullu had the highest surplus at +40%. Even during the pre-monsoon months (March to May 2021), HP had 10% below normal rains.
Himachal Pradesh witnessed several extreme rainfall incidents in pre monsoon month of May 2021. Probably the first cloud burst incident was reported[iii] from Gada Parli village under Sainj sub division of Kullu district which occurred in late evening hours of May 3 impacting about 8 homes apart from flash flood in local stream damaging[iv] wheat crops and apple orchards.
The village lies in the catchment of Kutaul stream which joins Sainj river about 1.3 km downstream of the 100 MW Sainj Hydro Electric Power Project (HEP) site. Google Map shows RBE HEP and Kotlu HEP located within 2 km downstream form confluence point of Kutaul and Sainj.
Next day, there were cloud bursts[v] at three locations including Paliur and Kilod panchayat in Chamba block and in Kuner panchayat under Mehla block of Chamba district causing large scale destruction[vi] to village properties and public infrastructures. The event unfolded amid heavy rainfall in the area in the morning hours of May 4, 2021.
The ensuing flash flood spell[vii] in Gurad, Dulada, Janghi, Brehi nullas in Kuned area blocked[viii] about 10 local roads and damaged[ix] part of Chamba-Bharmour national highway (NH) near Kalsui. Luckily no vehicle was passing through Kalsui at that time otherwise it could have led to human causalities. The deluge[x] washed away farmlands and destroyed[xi] wheat and other cash crops in Kuner and Kilod villages. Debris flooded some houses in Jyoti and erased a cowshed in Dhalotha.
In Paliur incident the Chamba-Sahu road was damaged and two cars were trapped in debris brought by flash flood in Tipra. The Paliur, Darbla and other nullahs surged with floods. Several villages[xii] suffered damages[xiii] to farmlands, cash crops of Potato, Maize, Corn and apple orchards in the area. The force of flash flood also led to bursting of a water supply pipeline. Heavy rain also caused landslides disrupting traffic.
Part of a canal was washed away in flood. It’s not specified whether it was hydro, irrigation or drinking water project. Google Earth shows two Kilod villages in the area located on either side of Ravi with slightly different spelling. It’s not clear which one was affected.
The Gurad nullah feeds Ravi river right at the dam site of NHPC’s Chamera II HEP while the Paliur, Tipra streams join Ravi downstream its power station. There is possibility of the flash flood impacting the project infrastructure however it is not mentioned in media reports.
Three vehicles were trapped in debris after a flash flood[xiv] in Bhanog nullah under Dimbar panchayat of Rajgarh in Sirmour district. The deluge reportedly occurred due to a cloud burst. The hailstorm and heavy rainfall spell also extensively damaged wheat and cash crops in several villages of the area.
A cloud burst incident took place in Chalama area of Materni village under Arki sub division in Solan district around 06:00 pm on May 7. The incident damaged[xv] several vehicles and a village road. The affected area is near NB waterfall in Kyari and the stream later joins Sutlej river.
Amid snowfall on high altitude and hailstorm at many locations, Pulan village under Mehla block reported a cloud burst[xvi] event around 01:00 am on May 11 causing flash flood in Bharmour stream washing away[xvii] about 30 sheep.
The owner was sleeping in his field with cattle at the time of incident and had to run away to save his life. The administration termed it a heavy rainfall event. Bharmour stream joins the Ravi river near Khara Mukh just upstream Chamera III dam site.
A cloud burst incident in Shivdhar range in Pandoh area of Mandi district affected roads and cash crops[xviii] in several villages under Maihni and Sakaryar panchayat. The area also suffered severe storm and hailstorm spell uprooting several trees and erasing a mobile tower. The disaster occurred in afternoon hours of May 29.
Over 20 bigha farmland was washed away in both villages. The road of Maihni was severely damaged. The flash flood in Sakaryar nullah killed[xix] 20 goats and a cow. The destruction to local and four major roads including Pandoh-Shiva, Shivadhar-Mahni caused over Rs. 40 lakh losses to PWD. The Sakaryar nullah feeds Uhl river, a tributary of Beas. The streams from Maihni areas join Beas river upstream of Pandoh dam.
The Chamba town area again saw a cloud burst[xx] incident around 04:00 pm on June 1 in Mugla ward. After the intense rainfall[xxi] spell, the local nala flooded[xxii] several homes, roads with muck sludge. About a dozen two wheelers were damaged and a few got washed away in the incident.
As per July 30 news report, the farmers and local people demanded compensation from PWD against rain related damages. They blamed[xxiii] the department for dumping road construction debris in careless manner which was blocking drainage channels and flooding their homes, fields during cloud burst and heavy rainfall events.
Same day another cloud burst incident occurred in the afternoon hours in Kandhar area of Mangal village panchayat under Arki tehsil in Solan district, washing away[xxiv] some vehicles and flooding[xxv] some homes with debris. The affected areas lie in Koldam submergence along the Sutlej river.
Several places received heavy rainfall on the day. There was a hailstorm in Shimla. The Aut-Aani-Sainj highway was blocked near Larji after a landslip in Banjar valley of Kullu. The higher reaches received snowfall. The weather vagaries affected horticulture crops particularly apple fruiting.
The Janghi village under Mehla block of Chamba district suffered[xxvi] hugely after a cloud burst in late evening hours on June 5. The deluge[xxvii] affected several homes, agricultural land and crops. The village school campus was flooded with debris. The Chamba-Bharmour highway was blocked due to muck and boulders. As per administration Rs. 5,000 was given as immediate compensation for severely damaged homes.
The village had faced[xxviii] cloud burst destruction earlier on June 12, 2019. At that time administration had promised flood protection work along the local gadera. But villagers allege nothing was done and they continue to live in fear. The affected area is located uphill on the left bank of Ravi river downstream Chamera III dam site.
Around 06:00 pm on June 10, a cloud burst induced flash flood[xxix] in a local stream flooded several homes with debris and cuased[xxx] damages[xxxi] to water sources, corn corps, and apple orchards. The incident[xxxii] happened in Sindhua village under Lech panchayat in Dharwal subdivision of Chamba district. The village is located upstream of the Chamera III dam on Ravi river.
The deluge and heavy rainfall affected more than a dozen villages in the area including Lech, Gehra, Piyura, Chhatradi, Saili, Garola, Ora, Ulasa, Khani, Garima. Seeing the local stream in spate[xxxiii] the villagers had to run to safety. The standing and planted crops and local roads were damaged in these villages.
The Bharmour-Chamba road was blocked after a landslide in Piyura village. The administration distributed Rs. 5000 (some reports mention Rs. 10,000) as compensation to affected families. As per this video report, there was one more cloud burst[xxxiv] in the area near Baloth and Kundel panchayat causing damages to local crops.
The Bhagsu Nag area of famous tourist spot in Mcleodganj under Dharamshala tehsil of Kangra district witnessed a cloud burst[xxxvi] incident around 09:00 am on July 12 triggering[xxxvii] flash flood in Bhagus khad. As a result several vehicles were damaged, about a dozen washed away. The deluge also flooded several shops, hotels and restaurants.
Social media was filled with flash flood videos[xxxviii]. The incident was widely covered[xxxix] by electronic and print media at national level. The Chief Minister was contacted by the Prime Minister and Home Minister. NDRF team was deployed for rescue operations.
The disaster occurred amid peak tourist season with thousands of people visiting the state. The flash flood[xl] created panic in the area. Seeing ferocity of deluge several tourists left their hotel rooms. Two persons went missing after the incident. However, officials did not confirm[xli] it as a cloud burst incident.
Encroachments along Bhagsu khad river were blamed[xlii] for most of the destruction. Over the years, the width of the stream has been reduced from 20 feet to 10 feet. Bhagsu joins Sauli khad downstream of Dharamshala, which in turn feeds the Baner river. The damage was also linked to haphazard[xliii], over-construction[xliv] narrowing down rivulets, drainage channels.
Between 8:30 am on July 11 and 8:30 am on July 12, seven districts received[xlv] ‘large excess’ rainfall. While Dharamshala recorded 184 mm and Palampur got 155 mm rains, the highest rainfall in past 24 hours in the state by that time. Kangra had been rainfall deficit[xlvi] in past five years. The district saw negligible rains for two weeks before the cloud burst incident.
Due to heavy rains, most rivers flowing from Dhauladhar hills were in full spate. A 9 year old girl died and six homes were washed away[xlvii] in the Bagli area along the Manjhi river. The slum dwellers residing on the banks of river were shifted to safe site just before the deluge, thus avoiding human toll. The raged river also damaged road connecting Sheela to Bagli enroute Dharamsala-Kangra.
Some bridges were reportedly damaged or washed away. There was heavy rainfall spell at many locations across the state causing flash floods and landslides. As a result several national highways were blocked including highway near Jhakri in Rampur area of Shimla. A bridge on the Mandi-Pathankot highway was also damaged.
Another destructive[xlviii] cloud burst incident was reported same day from Rulehad village in Boh valley of Kangra district. Located about 40 km north of Mcleodganj, the area comes under Shahpur constituency.
The incident took place around 10:00 am followed by a severe[xlix] muck slide along local stream running through the habitation. The cumulative impact of flashflood[l] and landslide[li] flattened about a dozen homes including panchayat and animal husbandry building of the village.
Nine people trapped under debris in their homes were killed[lii] while several others were injured and a few went missing. The torrential rain and landslide killed two more people in the area on the same day, including Manmeet Singh a young Sufi singer[liii] from Amritsar Punjab, who was on his way to Kareri lake from Boh valley with his friends.
The district received about 330 mm rainfall in 24 for hours which is highest in past 23 years after 381.7 mm of 1998. While administration termed the incident as cloud burst, the weather department did not confirm the same.
The Boh valley is prone[liv] to landslides where experts have advised to restrict building height to two floors. The earth beneath the ground in the area is said to be swampy and sandy. There has been stone and sand mining in and around Gaj khad flowing next to Rulehar village.
Gaj stream joins a tributary of Beas which merges into Pong reservoir. There are at least four SHPs[lv] (Small Hydro Project) on Gaj stream. There is no information on the role of SHPs in aggravating the floods or impact of cloud burst on these projects.
The Mcleodganj deluge damaged[lvi] the protection wall of Baner-Sangam SHP and flooding[lvii] the power station area. After flood alert around 08:30 am, the workers left the site in time thus avoiding human causalities. However the machinery and equipment worth Rs. 50 crore reportedly remained under flood water till late afternoon hours.
It is assumed that the project has suffered damages running into crores. The exact scale of impact and monetary losses is not known publicly. There is no information of flash flood impact on project dam site located upstream and its infrastructure.
The 5 MW SHP is located near Jalari village in Kangra district. The project is run by Yogindera Powers Ltd. and has been beneficiary[lviii] of CDM funds. Ultimately the Baner river joins the Pong reservoir. The flash flood incident brought about 3 lakh cusec[lix] water into the dam raising the water level to 11 per cent which had fallen down to just 5 per cent before this event.
The Bhalan II village under Sainj tehsil of Kullu district luckily escaped a cloud burst[lx] disaster after flash flood[lxi] in Jauli nala invaded[lxii] several homes on July 15. The villagers were woken up from their sleep by the loud rumble in local nala around 03:00 am and rushed to safe locations. Though debris flooded[lxiii] several homes, a slight change in deluge direction could have turned a big disaster for the villagers.
The subsequent flood deluge also damaged[lxiv] agricultural land, cash crop, village pathways and local roads. The village is located uphill on right bank of Sainj river downstream of Parbati III dam site. The district was witnessing heavy rainfall for past few days leading to blockage of several roads including Sainj- Largi highway.
On July 16, a cloud burst incident took place in Bharain area of Kullu district in early morning hours affecting[lxv] some homes with debris sludge and damaging cash as well as agricultural crops including apple nurseries. The area downhill Bijli Mahadev was also flooded with debris.
The muck sludge and flash flood brought in by a cloud burst[lxvi] in the higher reaches caused extensive damage[lxvii] to private and government property and crops in Khadvi, Tarala and Sarat villages of Buchher panchayat in Anni subdivision of Kullu district around 03:00 am on July 24.
The flash flood damaged[lxviii] 700 apple laden trees, 25 bigha of agricultural field, 8 houses and a cowshed. 2 vehicles were swept away[lxix] and the Gugra-Jaon-Tarala road was blocked near Sanwasar. The villagers moved to safer areas in time, otherwise there could have been the loss of human lives as well.
July 27 and 28 witnessed multiple cloud burst incidents in western Himalayan region of Himachal, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and even across the border of Pakistan. At least 5 of the devastating[lxx] events were reported from Himachal Pradesh.
The first one from tribal district of Lauhal Spiti around 08:00 pm on July 27 killed at least 10 people. Next day, the Gumma area of Chidgaon in Chanshal valley under Shimla district faced flash flood destruction following a cloud burst around 04:00 am. The Tuwan village under Pangi sub-division in Chamba was battered severely by a cloud burst incident in early morning hours of July 28.
In the fourth incident 4 people were washed away in Brahmaganga river deluge after a cloud burst around 06:00 am in Manikaran area under Kullu district. The fifth incident occurred in Rakcham panchyat of Kinnaur district around 06:30 am on July 28 causing significant damages to village properties.
The five districts of Lahaul-Spiti, Shimla, Chamba, Kullu, Kinnaur suffered significantly in cloud burst induced flash floods, landslides. Several places across the state witnessed heavy to very heavy rainfall in these two days leading to deluge in most of the rivers and rivulets. The flash floods and landslides[lxxi] led to massive destruction of public infrastructures including roads, bridges, hydro projects.
In Lahaul-Spiti incident, there was a huge cloud burst[lxxii] incident uphill Tholang village located about 4 km downstream of the Chandra-Bhaga rivers confluence point under Udaypur tehsil. The river is known as Chenab from this point. Tholang is on the right bank of Chenab river.
After the cloud burst, about half a dozen local nullahs namely Sakas near Keylong, Billing, Laut, Shansa, Jahlma, Kamring, Tozing and Thirot flooded[lxxiii] causing large scale destruction[lxxiv] in the area. The catastrophic flood[lxxv] in Tozing nullah invaded two tents belonging to workers engaged by BRO and Airtel mobile company for road construction and cabling work there. A vehicle carrying seven local people was also caught in the deluge. The tents seemed set up along the road close to the banks of Tozing nullah.
As a result, 13 people were washed away[lxxvi] of which 10 died and 3 were rescued. A JCB and a two vehicles were also swept away by the deluge. The flood in Bhaga damaged three shops located along the river in Darcha village while the affected villagers were shifted to safe location. A bridge on Chenab near Jahlma village downstream of Tholang was destroyed[lxxvii] by the flood surge.
The mobile, power services were disconnected. All major and most of village roads faced destruction making it inaccessible for the rescue teams. Over 250 tourists including 16 children and 60 women remained stranded[lxxviii] at various places between Udaypur and Keylong for three days.
The heavy rainfall damaged horticulture crops. BRO also faced significant damages to its infrastructure. The flood spell in Chhota Dada nullah impacted Kaza area located along Spiti river. Facing difficulties in rescue operations, the government decided to take the help of helicopters.
The head of 4.5 MW Thirot power project was reportedly washed away by flash flood in Thirot nullah. There is not much information available about the impact of the disaster on the project. Several HEPs are planned in this sensitive and vulnerable valley. Hardly two weeks after the cloud burst disaster, a huge landslide dam[lxxix] was formed there on Chenab river on Aug 13.
In Shimla, a cloud burst[lxxx] in Chanshal valley under Rohudu tehsil washed away[lxxxi] a motor bridge, damaged an under construction bridge and flooded agricultural land with muck in Gumma village area of Chidgaon. 15 vehicles were trapped in muck and 5 damaged by the spate in Gumma nullah. There were floods in several streams and landslides at many locations in the district during heavy rainfall causing significant damages[lxxxii] to public and private properties. The village had also suffered[lxxxiii] a cloud burst on September 1, 2019.
Another cloud burst[lxxxiv] occurred uphill Tuwan village under Pangi subdivision of Chamba district sweeping away 2 foot bridges, 20 cows and 5 mules. After heavy rainfall all the local streams including Jammu, Turand, Sachunala, Sidhaninala flooded dangerously impacting agricultural lands, crops and locals roads in Tuwan, Shaun, Sanchu, Mojhi and other villages in the area.
The villages are close to glaciers. Jammu nullah feeds Chenab river and has been affected by a cloud burst disaster[lxxxv] in September 1999 which killed one ITBP personnel and caused damages worth Rs. 2 crore. Same day, heavy downpour led to destruction of common and private properties in several villages under Saluni, Dalhauji, Chamba, Khajiyar sub-divisions of the district.
Overall 45 major and local roads were blocked due to rainfall induced flash floods and landslides across the district. Same day, two people were washed away in two separate incidents by the flash flood in the state. The PWD, BRO, Jal Shakti department suffered losses running into crores.
The cloud burst[lxxxvi] in Brahmganga river flooded[lxxxvii] several residential localities and 4 bigha of farmland in Manikaran. The deluge washed away 4 people[lxxxviii] including Vineeta Chaudhary from Ghaziabad who was working[lxxxix] there as camp site manager, a local woman along with her 4 year old kid and a local person working in Brahmganga HEP.
The Brahmganga joins Parbati river at Manikaran which is a famous tourist site. The HEP is located on the left bank of Brahmganga near Manikaran. The project structure has reportedly suffered damages but full details was not available in public domain.
The flood also washed away[xc] 12 camps along Parbati river. The Ghaziabad woman was staying in one of the Kasol Height camps along with 30 tourists. Seeing flash flood the project employees whistled repeatedly to alert the visitors in camps.
The body of the local woman was found from Pandoh dam on August 8 while the rest remained untraced by that time. Before this, Brahmganga stream has seen devastating cloud burst incident in 2001. The 2017, flash flood incident washed away two bridges[xci] on the river. The project was started in 2008 and has been benefited[xcii] under CDM scheme.
The flash flood spell in Huka nulllah in Raksham village of Kinnuar damaged cowsheds, irrigation channels and agricultural land following a cloud burst[xciii] on July 28 in the Shosla hill area of the village. The flood protection works done by forest department and pathways along the nullah were swept away causing financial loss worth lakhs of rupees. The villagers had to leave their homes and set their cattle free to escape the disaster.
The deluge in Thiyog nullah of Kyara panchayat under same area swept away three vehicles. It is not known if the incident was caused by cloud burst.
The area has faced large scale destruction after a cloud burst in July 2016[xciv] which also affected power production in 1000 MW Karcham Wangtu and 300 MW Baspa HEPs. Before that, there have been cloud bursts in 2005 and 2007.
The state suffered losses to the tune of Rs. 500 crore[xcv] in just two days of heavy rainfall. The flood and landslide destruction left 14 people dead, several injured, blocked about 387 roads, damaged 5 bridges, destroyed 48 homes and buildings and affected 345 transformers, 175 drinking water projects.
The Parbati valley in Kullu district again saw cloud burst induced flash flood[xcvi]. The Raskot nullah under Barshaini village flooded violently around 04:00 pm on August 2. The villagers along the stream were asked to vacate their homes. The Barshaini road was closed[xcvii] by the debris dumped by the nullah blocking vehicular movement.
The locals and visitors gripped with panic fearing possibility of recent Brahmganga like disaster. The situation became normal as rain halted soon. The Raskot nullah joins Parbati from right side some 4 km upstream of Manikaran. The power station of Parbati II HEP is located hardly 2 km upstream.
Amid heavy rainfall, two cloud bursts[xcviii] were reported from Kuthed and Palehi villages under Aani tehsil of Kullu in early morning hours of August 29 damaging[xcix] agricultural land, apple orchards and local roads. Heavy rainfall, flash flood[c] in Gogari nullah streams also affected Amarbag and Kushkutal villages. A tipper and foot bridge were washed away in the incident.
The flash flood in a local stream flooded[ci] several government buildings in Nagar Parishad area of Kullu district on September 11. The debris flow also damaged homes and shops in Balh panchayat areas. The flooding was attributed to solid waste and muck dumping choking the drainage channel.
Barua village near Manali tourist spot in Kullu district faced cloud burst induced flash flood[cii] around 12:00 pm on September 20. Residents were woken up and frightened by midnight deluge that flooded[ciii] several homes, courtyards, open areas and damaged about 300 apple trees with debris and muck.
A cloudburst[civ] at Sheel Chamyar village in Nahan tehsil of Sirmaur district around 05:30 pm of September 20 damaged standing crops worth Rs 90,000 over 24 beegha. Tehsildar, Nahan, Maya Ram Sharma said that four villagers lost their standing crops of maize, rice, lemon, ginger and chilly as the arable land was washed away by the gushing flood water.
A boundary wall village school collapsed. Two potable water tanks were buried under slush brought in by the flood. The flood fury[cv] and heavy rainfall destroyed about a dozen roads in the area causing PWD losses worth Rs. 33.89 lakh. Till September 21, the state had received 642.9 mm rainfall against the normal of 737.8 mm thus a deficit of 13%.
The Phanouti, Juhad, Banala, Garh villages in Brahm Saraj area of Raghupur valley under Aani tehsil in Kullu district were affected[cvi] immensely after a cloud burst around 04:00 pm on September 22. The major destruction took place along Phanouti nallah which flooded[cvii] dangerously washing a farming land, local pathways, destroying part of Rohuchla- Juhad road and Phanouti-Bishladhar potable water supply line.
The heavy rainfall also damaged cash crops in Charandi, Jamala, Gahi, Jahakdupani villages. By this time, the state had suffered financial losses wroth Rs. 1,007 crore due to weather related disaster which had killed 424 people, 700 cattle and damaged more than 1000 houses.
The Phanouti panchayat villages were again affected[cviii] by cloud burst disaster around 06:00 pm on September 30. This time the Balagad khud flooded[cix] massively washing a dozens of pathways, two small foot bridges. The excessive rainfall also damaged cash crops on large area.
The flash flood also swept away[cx] about 3000 trout fish at Lagoti area. The fish tank was filled with muck and debris. The Phanouti-Bishladhar drinking water line was further damaged causing water crisis in dependent areas. The deluge destroyed several pathways and foot bridges on and along the stream upto Ranabagh.
There was a cloud burst[cxi] in Kugati panchayat in Bharmour tehsil of Chamba in late night hours of September 30. The resultant flash flood in Halani nullah washed away a road widening machine causing about Rs. 20 lakh losses to PWD. The incident also damaged the road blocking traffic on Hadsar-Kugati route. Kugati village had suffered[cxii] massive damages during a cloud burst disaster in July 2016.
Some Relevant News
As per Brief Monsoon Report 2021[cxiii] by Meteorological Centre, Shimla, the south west monsoon had covered all parts of state by June 13 (which is earliest onset in the past 21 years after June 9 in 2000) against the normal date of June 26.
Cumulatively the rainfall has been 686.4 mm which is 11 percent less corresponding to normal average of 763.5 mm. Out of 12 districts, 8 recorded less than normal rains but within normal category range. In remaining 3, while Kullu received excess rains (40 percent), Chamba (-40 percent) and Lahual-Spiti (-69 percent) has been in deficit and large deficit category.
Month wise, the rainfall was 17 percent less in June, 05 percent excess in July, 44 percent deficit in August and 34% surplus in September. After 2019 (-18 percent), 2020 (-34.50 percent), this is third consecutive year when state has received less than normal rainfall in south west monsoon.
As per the report, the state has seen 7 days of very heavy to extremely heavy rainfall at 23 locations in 5 districts during the season. Out of this, July month alone received excessive rainfall in 5 days at 21 locations while August and September each month saw one day of extremely heavy rainfall spell. The report does not reflect properly on impact of heavy rainfall induced flooding and landslide. It has not mentioned of any cloud burst incident.
As per its website[cxiv], there are 6 surface observatories, 23 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) and 69 Automatic Rainfall Station (ARS) for monitoring of rains. There has been talks[cxv] about increasing AWS, installing snow gazers for better monitoring, prediction and impact mitigation of extreme weather events including avalanche, landslide, flash flood and cloud burst.
The Monsoon withdrew on October 8 from the state making it second most delayed[cxvi] withdrawal in 17 years. The weather related disasters killed 470 people, left 627 injured and 12 missing. Maximum 57 causalities has been in Kinnaur district. The state suffered Rs. 1140 Cr as financial losses. The figures for 2020, 2019 and 2018 are Rs. 615 crore, Rs. 1200 crore and Rs. 1479 crore respectively.
By the end of July month, about 202 people had lost their lives to landslides, flash floods and cloud bursts. The increase[cxvii] in frequency, ferocity and fatalities are being linked to climate change impacts by experts and scientists repeatedly cautioning government against impacts of weather disasters[cxviii] on large developmental projects including hydro, road, tourism projects amid changing climatic factors.
This report highlights[cxix], Himachal recorded 116% increase in the landslide incidents while cloudburst occurrences went up by 121% this monsoon season compared to 2020. The state recorded 35 major landslides between June 13 and July 30. Last year, 16 landslides were recorded across the hill state. Similarly, 17 incidents of flash floods were reported across the state this year compared to just 9 last year.
It further mentions that the tribal Lahaul-Spiti district is the worst hit this season with a total of 13 landslides and 11 instances of flash floods, 4 of them triggered by cloud bursts. Mandi and Shimla have reported 4 major landslides while 3 were reported in Kullu and 2 each in Chamba, Kinnaur and Solan. 2 flash floods each occurred in Chamba, Kullu and Kangra.
After years of delays, the state has got its first Doppler radar[cxx] installed at Kufri area of Shimla on January 15 2021. The state is supposed to have two more radars at Mandi and Dalhousie in Chamba. Though there have been several cloud bursts and heavy rainfall within the 100 km radius of the radar, there is no information how helpful the technology have been in achieving its objectives.
This report[cxxi] says weather disasters including cloud bursts annually result in destruction worth thousands of crores to the state. It includes areas in Shimla, Mandi, Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur, Kangra as highly sensitive to weather disasters but skips Lahual-Spiti. It mentions about ongoing process of setting up SDRF teams at Shimla, Kangra, Mandi.
This report mentions[cxxii] of major flash flood, landslide incidents in the state in recent past including the cloud burst at NHPC’s Sheelagarh HEP site in Gadsa valley in Kullu killing over 50 workers[cxxiii] in August 2013. The valley also witnessed cloud burst destruction[cxxiv] in August 2020.
High Rainfall days Based on India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s daily district wise rainfall reports during SW Monsoon 2021, we could find following days when the rainfall in the specific districts was above 50 mm during the respective SW monsoon months (In case of July 13 and 19 for Kangra the rainfall was in 100-150 mm rainge, for the rest of the dates it was in 50-100 mm range). Only the districts where such events occurred are listed here, there were no such incidents in the remaining districts.
|June 2021||July 2021||Aug 2021||Sep 2021||Total|
|Kangra||–||12, 28 |
13, 19 (100-150 mm)
|Sirmaur||17||11, 13, 28||20||–||5|
The district wise rainfall in Himachal Pradesh during SW Monsoon 2021 and departure from normal are as per following table, taken from IMD figures.
|Districts||Rainfall, mm||Departure from Normal, %|
|Lahul & Spiti||139.7||-65|
|Date/ Time||Nos.||Drainage channel, River||Affected areas, villages||Block/Tehsil District||Remark|
|May 3 Late evening||1||Kutaul,|
|Gada Parli, Sainj Valley||Sainj Kullu||Affected areas are u/s of 100 MW Sainj HEP.|
|May 4 Between ~07:00-08:00 am||3||Gaurad, Janghi, Tipra Ravi River||Paliur, Kunedh, Kilod panchayats||Mahela Chamba||The affected areas are around 300 MW Chamera II HEP.|
|May 7 ~06:00 pm||1||NB waterfall Sutlej||Materni||Arki Solan||NB water fall is famous tourist spot.|
|May 11 ~01:00 am||1||Gada Khad, Bharmour Ravi||Pulan||Mahela Chamba||The Bharmour feeds Ravi u/s 300 Mw Chamera III dam site. 30 cattle killed.|
|May 29 Afternoon hours||1||Local nullahs, Ulh, Beas||Maihni, Sakaryar||Pandoh Mandi||21 cattle killed. Affected areas located u/s Pandoh dam.|
|June 1 ~04:00 pm||1||Local khad Ravi||Mugla ward||Chamba||Road muck blamed for flash flood.|
|June 1 Evening hours||1||Local khad Sutlej||Kandhar Mangal||Arki, Solan||Affected areas located u/s Koldam.|
|June 5 Evening hours||1||Janghi khad Ravi||Janghi||Mehla Chamba||The same village had faced cloud burst in June 2019.|
|June 10 ~06:00 pm||2||Local khads Ravi||Lech, Baloth panchayats||Dharwal Chamba||The affected areas are u/s Chamera III dam site.|
|July 12 ~09:00 am||2||Local khads Bhagsu, Souli, Manjhi Baner, Gaj Beas||Mcleodganj Rulhed||Dharam-shala Shahpur Kangra||Large scale destruction. ~12 people killed. Baner Sangam HEP power station flooded..|
|July 15 ~03:00 am||1||Jouli khad Sainj||Bhalan I||Sainj, Kullu||Affected areas d/s Parbati II dam site.|
|July 16 Early morning||1||Local khad Parbati||Bhairain||Bhuntar Kullu||The area is near Beas- Parbati confluence.|
|July 24 ~03:00 am||1||Local khads, Sutlej tributary||Buchher||Anni Kullu|
|July 27 ~08:00 pm||1||Tizong, Billing, Bhaga, Chenab||Tholang Thirot Drcha||Udaipur Lahual Spiti||10 people killed. 250 tourists stranded Thirot HEP damaged Disaster prone zone Recently landslide dam formed on Chenab|
|July 28 ~04:00 am||4||Gumma Nauti khad Sutlej||Gumma||Rohadu Shimla||Faced cloud burst in Sept. 2019.|
|~06:00 am||Brahmaganga Parbati||Manikaran||Kullu||4 people washed away. Disaster prone area. Had faced cloud burst in 2001, 2017. Brahmaganga HEP affected.|
|~6.30 am||Huka, Baspa||Rakcham||Kinnaur||Area has suffered cloud burst disasters in July 2016, 2007 and 2005.|
|Early morning||Local nullahs Jammu, Turand, Chenab||Towan, Shaun, Sanchu, Mojhi||Pangi, Chamba||25 cattle killed. Jammu nullah had seen cloud burst devastation in Sept. 1999.|
|August 2 ~04:00 am||1||Raskot, Parbati||Barshaini||Kullu||Area near Parbati II power station 4 km u/s Manikaran.|
|August 29 Early hrs||2||Gogari Sutlej||Kuthed, Palehi||Kullu|
|Sept. 20 ~12:00 pm||1||Local khad Beas||Barua||Manali Kullu||Manali is famous and often overcrowded tourist location.|
|Sept. 20 ~05:30 pm||1||Local khads Roon, Markanda||Sheel Chakli||Nahan, Sirmour||Affected area is in Shiwalik range|
|Sept. 22 ~04:00 pm||1||Local khads, Phanouti, Balgad Sutlej tributary||Phanouti, Raghupur valley||Anni, Kullu||Destroyed local bridges, fisheries and drinking water pipeline.|
|Sept. 30 ~06:00 pm||1|
|Sept. 30 Late night||1||Halani, Ravi||Kugati||Bharmour, Chamba|
The media reports show that the state of Himachal Pradesh has seen at least 30 cloud burst incident in 2021 out of which 12 took place in pre-monsoon months of May and June and 18 during south west monsoon months.
The phenomena has been witnessed across the geographical terrain from near glaciated areas to mountain valley in middle and lesser hills of Shiwalik range. The famous tourists as well as religious shrine of Mcleodganj, Manali, Manikaran faced significant destruction due to cloud burst induced flash floods.
At least four HEPs including Brahmaganga, Bane-Sangam, Tiroth, Chamera II have faced minor or major impacts but report detailing damages and official confirmation is not available in public domain. The disaster might have affected more hydro projects as most of the cloud bursts have happened around various built or under construction HEPs locations. Given proliferation of hydro projects in most of river valleys, cloud burst disaster has become significant threat to structural safety of these projects endangering lives of local people.
While there has been no human death in most cases, at least 26 precious lives were lost to just four cloud burst incidents of Tolang in Lahaul (10), Boh valley, Mecleodganj in Kangra (12) and Manikaran in Kullu (4). Similarly, about 76 cattle were killed in just three cloud bursts induced flash floods of Pulan, Chamba (30) Sakaryar, Mandi (21) and Pangi, Chamba (25).
However, every single incident has affected government infrastructures and village properties in significant manner. The flash floods, landslides have become most striking feature of cloud bursts magnifying the disaster scale.
It is also observed that solid waste, road construction muck dumping and encroachments in flood zone have compromised carrying capacity of drainage channels further aggravating cloud bursts induced flash flood disasters.
The farming community including horticulturists, vegetable growers have particularly suffered due to cloud bursts whether occurring amid storm spells, hailstorm events in pre monsoon months or accompanying with heavy rainfalls in monsoon months.
Month and District wise summary table
The month wise data shows, maximum 10 cloud bursts took place in July within this 6 were in just 2 districts of Kullu (4) and Kangra (2). While May saw 7 excessive rainfall events, the Sept. and June each witnessed 5 of these disasters. Interesting and unusually just 3 cloud bursts events were report in August which is the peak monsoon month.
As per district wise data, the phenomena has affected 9 of 12 districts. Out of 30 above compiled cloud burst incidents (information for which we could gather from media), maximum 10 occurred in Chamba followed by 9 in Kullu.
While the cloud bursts are wreaking havoc to the land, lives and livelihoods in the state, the government have not yet acknowledged it as a serious threat, let alone the achieving credible monitoring and mitigation initiatives.
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)