|Introduction: Give the context of flash floods.|
Body: What role do anthropogenic factors play especially for flash floods?
Conclusion: Way forward.
Flash floods are sudden and intense floods that occur within a short period, usually within minutes or hours, and are localized to specific areas. Flash floods in Himachal Pradesh have caused unprecedented damage to live and property in the state. According to the State’s 2015 Landslide Hazard Risk Assessment, the hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh are vulnerable to landslides due to geological, meteorological, and anthropogenic factors. The hydro-meteorological conditions and fragile structural fabric of the geological strata of Himachal Pradesh increase the possibility of landslides.
Role of anthropogenic factors in exacerbating the effects of climate change, particularly floods:
- Removal of vegetation cover: The natural capacity of trees to absorb precipitation is decreased by large-scale deforestation and the removal of forests for agriculture, infrastructure construction, and human settlements.
- Hydropower projects: The uncontrolled construction of hydropower projects has essentially transformed mountain rivers into mere streams. This leads to the diversion of water through tunnels inside the mountains and the material excavated is deposited alongside riverbeds.
- Development activities: Various development activities like road widening, hotel construction, and cement plant expansion leading to changing patterns of land use, and a change in agriculture techniques to cash crop economies have affected the environment and river systems.
- Exploitation of natural resources: The exploitation of natural resources, including forests, water, tourism, and cement production has played a major role in exacerbating the effects of climate change which has significantly contributed to the disaster.
- Tourism: The purpose of the development-driven road extension is to promote tourism and draw in a lot of tourists with frequent road widening projects. These PPP projects are undertaken by bypassing fundamental geological knowledge and mountain engineering expertise.
- Soil Erosion: Himachal Pradesh’s State of the Environment Report, released in 2022 by the Department of Environment, Science and Technology, points out that mountain areas are highly vulnerable to natural disasters. According to one estimate, about 58.36% of the land is subjected to intense soil erosion, most of which is located in the Himalayas, and Himachal Pradesh, which forms part of the Western Himalayas, is environmentally fragile and ecologically vulnerable.
- Cropping pattern: A significant change in both landholdings and produce has occurred on account of farmers moving towards cash crops instead of cereals. For eg, owing to their perishable nature these crops require modern transportation infrastructure involving the expansion of roads.
There should be extensive consultations with local communities regarding infrastructure projects and their ownership. The economic loss suffered by locals should be compensated. Addressing these anthropogenic factors requires measures such as afforestation, proper urban planning, maintaining natural drainage systems, and improving water management that can help reduce the vulnerability of areas to flooding.