No immediate threat to Badrinath : Uttarakhand CM

20130713-083756.jpgDehra Dun : Though chief minister Vijay Bahuguna categorically said that there was no immediate danger from the moraine lake that had formed above the Badrinath shrine along the Alaknanda, but he hastened to add that the state government was watching and monitoring the situation closely.

However, following the gruesome tragedy that hit the Kedarnath valley on June 16, the authorities are not taking any chances and have asked the people along the banks of the Alaknanda to remain on high alert.

Those in the low lying areas have been asked to move to higher reaches, lest they be caught off guard.

Even as satellite pictures of the moraine lake that is being fed by the melting waters of the Satopanth and Bhagirathi glaciers are being studied to assess its depth and water holding capacity, a technical; team of the army and ITBP is on its way to study the ground realities.

Fears have been expressed that the blockade because of which the lake has formed is of debris that could give way under high water pressure.

Informed sources said that Uttarakhand Satellite Application Centre (USAC) pictures taken about an year back had shown that the debris that had come down from glaciers and had formed a blockade near the Satopanth and Bhagirathi glaciers is in an active landslide prone area, from where the debris had come down to form the blockade.

However, they said that as of now the debris is not blocking the flow of the Alaknanda, but as more debris rolls down from the higher reaches of the landslide prone area, one could not rule out that the blockade may become big enough to hinder the flow of the river, which could create problems at a later date.

To press home their point they said that one should not forget that in 2007, it was the bursting of a similar lake that formed on the Alaknanda because of debris that had rolled down, which had devastated the Alaknanda valley. As such it was necessary to maintain a high alert and monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis, they added.

Sources said that the reason for worry is the fact that not only is the area in a landslide zone but also in a seismic active zone and as such, there were chances that even a small tremor on the Richter scale could cause the lake to burst and the water come cascading down. As the lake is just above the Badrinath shrine and township and there is a steep slope varying between 70 degrees and almost 90 degrees, the damage downhill could be immense.

According to them, a healthy sign was that the water was not completely blocked in the lake and it was overflowing into the Alaknanda.

They recalled that a lake had also formed in the Pareechu river in China and there were fears that should it burst it could create havoc in Himachal Pradesh, but the water continued to overflow and the crisis was then averted.

Meanwhile chief minister Vijay Bahuguna said that though his government was monitoring the situation caused by the formation of the lake on a day-to-day basis, but there were a number of moraine lakes that had been formed by the glaciers in Uttarakhand. “We are asking the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to survey these lakes and give their report in the matter”, he added.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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