U'khand needs warning system, says scientist

As the remote sensing pictures of the Uttarakhand terrain lack precision, scientists are suggesting a better technology to keep tabs on the cascading, young mountains of the Uttarakhand region.

Explaining the need for an early warning system such as mapping the mountains in the Uttarakhand region with Light Detection and Ranging , Distinguished Scientist and former Director of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) Professor Vijay Prasad Dimri told Deccan Herald  “Lidar is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. The term Lidar comes from combining the words light and radar.”

In Uttarakhand’s case, a combination of aircraft-based Lidar and GPS could be evolved as an important tool for detecting faults and for measuring uplift. “The method is simple and cheap. There are many private firms equipped with the Lidar technology,” Dimri said.

“Being born and educated in the Gadwal region, I have been advising the local government to take up Lidar surveys to identify the landslides which were mostly manmade,” he said, adding that the government never responded to his requests.
Prof Dimri  said widening of roads to allow traffic along the stream has cut the mountains deeply making them unstable.

He reasoned that the region is not new to cloudbursts or flash floods and the floods that inundate the holy places are locally known as Gaad.

“The difference this time was that the incident was not local anymore but a cascade that swept through the whole region,” Dimri said. Other than the unplanned development on the banks there is also sand mining on the hills that made the mountains week. “There should be development no doubt, but only through understanding geophysical hazard in that area,” Prof Dimri suggested.


He observed that the natural path of the streams has been altered in many places, widening the area of inundation.

“ I would like to caution the government that the region is categorized as zone 5 under the Seismic Zoning map of India which is a potent area of enhanced seismic activity. “God forbidden if an earth quake occurs here the cascading effect would be far more devastating,” Prof Dimri said.

He called on the Uttarakhand government to take up geothermal power projects to utilize underground hot water instead of a series of hydel power projects to meet the ever increasing demand for power. Even if the temperatures of these hot springs are not up to the mark (140 deg Celsius) the government could mull undertaking hot water pumping to reduce dependence on hydel power.

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