Saturday, February 27

Uttarakhand submits plan to court for monitoring Gangotri glacier region

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Uttarakhand government on Wednesday submitted an action taken report to the state high court, listing the steps it is planning to take for monitoring Gangotri glacier region at the mouth of the Gaumukh glacier, the origin of the river Ganga.

The report also apprised the HC of the action taken against officials for non-compliance of July 2018 order, which directed the state government to report the status of Gangotri glacier once every three months.

The matter was heard by division bench of acting chief justice Ravi Vijaykumar Malimath and justice Sharad Kumar Sharma. HT has a copy of the action taken report.

In July 2018, the HC had directed the state government to rope in Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology to study the status of the artificial lake forming in the Gangotri glacier region at the mouth of the Gaumukh glacier, after every three months and present the reports to the court. Court gave the directions while responding to a PIL filed by Delhi-based Ajay Gautam in 2017.

The action taken report said, “It would be appropriate for the Department of Disaster Management to nominate Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology as the nodal organisation to monitor inaccessible areas which are prone to similar disasters, using technical resources. Apart from monitoring the inaccessible regions of Uttarakhand, the institute shall also propose for responses in case disasters take place”.

The report further recommends constitution of a high power committee comprising the secretaries of disaster management and information technology departments, inspector general of police of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), directors of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology and of Indian Institute of Remote Sensing for an effective response to any natural disasters that may occur in the region.

The state government informed the court that Piyoosh Rautela, executive director of Uttarakhand Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre has been suspended and three section officers have been granted 15 days time to submit their replies on the matter of the non-compliance with the court order.

Gautam’s PIL had pointed out that an artificial lake of 1500X250 metre had formed at the mouth of the Gaumukh glacier due to piling up of the nearly 30-metre-high debris at the mouth of the stream. “If it is not cleared in time, another Kedarnath-like disaster is waiting to happen,” the petition had said.

Gautam said he had apprised court earlier this year that the compliance report, required to be filed after every three months, had not been filed.

The formation of the artificial lake had come to light after a team of scientists from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, led by PS Negi, senior scientist, had visited the Gaumukh in July 2017.