China floods scare in fragile Himalayas

China floods scare in fragile Himalayas
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China floods scare in fragile Himalayas

Highlights

As China's central Henan province received its heaviest in 1,000-years as stated by the officials there – Zhengzhou saw 624 mm of rainfall on Tuesday, with a third of that amount falling between 16:00 and 17:00 alone, the region witnessed massive floods due to the downpour killing over two dozen people and leading to evacuation of thousands across many cities and villages

As China's central Henan province received its heaviest in 1,000-years as stated by the officials there – Zhengzhou saw 624 mm of rainfall on Tuesday, with a third of that amount falling between 16:00 and 17:00 alone, the region witnessed massive floods due to the downpour killing over two dozen people and leading to evacuation of thousands across many cities and villages.

On Tuesday evening, the media reports stated that the relentless downpour had caused a 20-metre breach inYihetan dam in Luoyang, about 140 km away from Zhengzhow. The People's Liberation Army had warned that the dam "may collapse at any time". It was breached on Tuesday night by the army to release floodwaters, which in turn, flooded the highly populated downstream areas.

In India, the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh witnessed torrential rain and cloudburst leading to colossal floods just last week. Taking a cue from China's massive floods, dam breaks and damage to infrastructure, the pertinent question is whether India should be buildings big dams in the fragile Himalayas and using 'dams as flood regulators' policy?

Dehradun-based Ravi Chopra, founder director of the People's Science Institute (PSI) at Dehradun, minces no words. "There are extreme temperatures; nobody imagined that a country like Canada could hit 50 degrees Celsius. All this is happening in space of few weeks. Now, to ignore this evidence is, to my mind, like burying one's head in the sand," he said.

Experts have poked holes in the government argument that dams are regulators of floods. The latest example from China has shown the adverse impact because of the dams.

Going beyond that argument, Chopra said: "The era of dams is over. It is the technology from the past century. Hydropower is vastly expensive compared to solar power."

Another reason for such catastrophic events is the continuous loss of forest cover, especially in the Himalayas.

"India needs 33 per cent forest cover, where is that forest cover? Afforestation is the need of the hour. We cannot afford Char Dham type of projects which by design cut down thousands of hectares and then unaccounted cutting down is far greater. This is the Himalayan region, if forests go, then landslides and floods follow," he added.

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