By Arun Kumar Singhal
Uttarakhand is known for the natural beauty of the Himalayas, the Bhabhar and the Terai grasslands and savannas. It is often called the Devbhumi or Land of the Gods due to the many Hindu temples, pilgrimage centre and tourist places. The natural beauty here is also catching on with the Bollywood filmmakers who are lining up to shoot here.
Two of India’s biggest rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna originate in the glaciers of the Himalayas in the Uttarakhand. The hundreds of other smaller rivers too sourced from the western Himalayas namely the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Kali, Kosi, Mandakini, Nandakini, and Ramganga, among others add to the natural beauty and grandeur to the land of the Gods.
While the hills are usually a serene place, the monsoons here are very tough. The hill folks battle for their living here in extreme weather and especially the monsoons. The land of Uttarakhand being eco-fragile is a unique case that is prone to quick disaster happening during the monsoons and winter.
Having a varied topography and due to extreme rainfall, Uttarakhand every year witnesses quick runoff because of fragile hill slopes. The State faces the problems of landslides on a regular basis blocking hill roads thereby disconnecting far-flung areas. The cloudburst and associated hazards like the floods and flash floods caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period are the worst that claim countless lives here, both of humans and livestock.
Against this backdrop, while the thirteen districts of the State – Almora, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Champawat, Dehradun, Haridwar, Nainital, Pauri, Pithoragarh, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Udham SinghNagar and Uttarkashi are on their toes ready to avert any disaster happening there due to excessive rainfall, if one observes minutely, nature seems to jest with humans. It plays hide-and-seek and embarrasses humans as they make their predictions.
The Doon which experiences heavy to very heavy rainfall bringing normal life to a complete halt seems to get the worst weather assessment predictions.
Yes, you have it right; when the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts extreme weather for the Doon the predictions mostly turns just the opposite. One will notice whenever there are warnings issued of heavy to very heavy rainfall likely to occur in the valley and all educational institutions made to close down by the administration as a precautionary measure to avert any accidents, sparkling sunshine or a clear blue sky leaves all laughing. The children however profusely thank the weatherman for getting them an unplanned sunny day holiday gift.
The latest example of this is the sudden school holiday announced by the administration on the advice of the Meteorological Department on Monday, 19 August. While warning was of a very heavy downpour to occur, the day went mostly dry, sunny and bright.
The hide-and-seek or nature’s jest does not end here between the weather and the weatherman. The days of normalcy declared by the Meteorological Department turns just the opposite again. When no warnings are issued of bad weather, the weather turns to such fury that creates situations like flash floods all over the city, leaving everyone dazed and marooned in the flooding waters all around. Children and adults wade their way to and from their schools or work place in flood like condition and traffic jams. What a joke! Who says beat nature, at least predict well!
In the age of digitalisation, massive space research programmes; dedicated weather predicting satellites and other advanced devices, why correct weather predictions cannot be done is a big question.
Wrong prediction can take the State disaster management preparedness for a ride. It is time the government takes serious cognisance of this and makes sure the weatherman seriously gets down to work and not become a laughing-stock.
(The writer is an author, journalist and social worker based in Dehradun)