Amarnath Tragedy a nature’s fury

Vinod Dixit

The Amarnath tragedy is done with. Nature believed it was time for irony.Cloudburst is the reason that has been attributed as a cause of death of at least 13 AmarnathYatris. The increasing incidents of cloud bursts in Himalayan states have been proving significant disaster for lives and livelihoods of native people, rivers and environment of the states.The cold burst blood vessels and sent hundreds into shock. Without weather information, no one realise the danger from the cold front that swiftly moved in. The holy yatra of Amarnath is a symbol of compassion, spirituality, service and peace. The Amarnath shrine is in a cave 3,888 metres above sea level in the Lidder Valley, which has a large concentration of small and large glaciers such as Kolahai, Nehnar and Bodpathri.

The tragedy also brought out the best in the people of Kashmir: all along the route, local Muslims opened their houses to dazed pilgrims, giving them food and shelter. Heavy rainfall is one of the climate challenges that the pilgrimages of Amarnath had to  face. The unusually heavy cloudburst that struck is an example of how extreme weather events can have severe consequences for our infrastructure and homes.Cloudbursts usually last only for a few minutes but can lead to disastrous effects and flooding in that short period.

There is no doubt that the J&K Government has made continuous efforts for the annual yatra to the 3,880-metre-high holy cave shrine of Amarnath in the Himalayas "comfortable, modern and safe". In 1969, when 40 pilgrims died after a cloudburst in Pahalgam.In 1996, unusually heavy snowfall along with severe blizzards along the yatra route led to 250 people being killed due to exhaustion, exposure and freezing. In 2015, three people were killed and 11 injured after a cloudburst triggered flash floods and landslides near the Baltal base camp of the AmarnathYatra.Cloudburst is a natural and common phenomenon in the Himalayas, A cloudburst is short-term extreme precipitation that takes place over a small area; it is not, as is sometimes understood, breaking open of a cloud, resulting in release of huge amounts of water. Cloudburst causes massive loss of life, property, infrastructure, agricultural lands and other facilities. The earlier disasters show that the growing outbreak of rains and its associated flash floods, debris flows and landslides are important reasons for damages and destructions. 

Meteorologists say the rain from a cloudburst is usually of the shower type with a fall rate equal to or greater than 100 mm (4.94 inches) per hour.Generally, cloudbursts are associated with thunderstorms and the air currents rushing upwards in a rainstorm hold up a large amount of water.Water flowing down steep slopes brings debris, boulders and uprooted trees with great velocity damaging any structure that comes in their way.A series of initiatives and changes in relevant regulations have already been implemented. The government also continues to work actively to improve the framework, wherever the need arises.Rain can be a blessing, but sometimes it can also be a curse, as in the case of cloudbursts. We need to be aware of the causes, effects, and safety precautions of cloudbursts to stay safe if they occur near us.

One of the many means of avoiding extensive damage caused by disasters is by being well prepared to face them.It is important to know the history of previous disastrous events and take a lesson from them and plan ahead. What we need is to add not only more weather monitoring stations but also to ensure their smooth functioning.  




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