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Uttarakhand: Satellite images confirm new lake near Rishiganga ‘growing’

NEW DELHI/DEHRADUN: About 5km from where a peak broke off and triggered the floods on Sunday and 17km from the Tapovan rescue site, a new lake is growing by the Rishiganga every day. Satellite images from NDRF and a spot visit by DRDO confirmed its presence and the CWC is running simulations to pre-empt the possibility of another round of floods.

So far, about 0.7 million cubic metre (70 crore litre) water has accumulated in the new lake. It is about 350m long, thrice the size of a football field, and the natural ‘dam’ about 60m deep with a 10° slope. If the lake were to be breached at that angle from that height (2,383m above sea level), it could be dangerous. “The size of the lake is increasing with every passing day. However, some of the water is also flowing out. It doesn’t look alarming as of now,” NDRF director general SN Pradhan told TOI.

On Thursday, geologists from the Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University had released a video of a lake that had formed near the Rishiganga. The department of science and technology-run Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) had then confirmed the accumulation of water but could not immediately say if the lake was new. Now, satellite images captured by the NDRF have validated Thursday’s findings — that it’s a new lake — and triangulated the spot where it has been formed.

At the same time, DRDO scientists visited the site and submitted a report to the Central Water Commission (CWC), which corroborated the findings as well. WIHG director Kalachand Sain said, “The new lake also looks like it was formed after the disaster. Our scientists are working to figure out the causes behind its formation.”

Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said the government has taken this into account. “We are alert. In the morning, the lake opened up naturally and the water started flowing out. It looks like snow had accumulated in the area, was covered in debris and, later, took the form of a lake,” he told TOI. “I had spoken to the Air Force on Thursday. They had confirmed NDRF and SRDF personnel, and experts would visit the spot.” DRDO drones, meanwhile, are collecting images every hour and sending them across to the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory in Chandigarh. And the IMD has predicted 1cm rainfall and 10cm snowfall on Sunday and Monday.

The plan, now, is to use all this information and map out flood possibilities, vulnerable zones and response times. The CWC is running simulations based on the maximum discharge rate of water from the lake, estimated to be 891 cubic metre (8.9 lakh litre) per second. “And it can take nine minutes for the water to travel 2.5km downstream and 53 minutes to reach Joshimath. There is no immediate concern, we are taking all precautions,” Sharad Chandra, director of flood forecasting at CWC, told TOI. But in case of a breach, the water can travel up to 53km in three hours at a rate of 418 cubic metre (about 4.2 lakh litres) per second.

Union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told TOI that besides monitoring the water level, “a strategy is being worked out to drain collected water” in flood-hit areas. “Our men in CWC earlier had immediately conceived a model to find the possible levels of water at Joshimath, Karnprayag, Devprayag. We shared that model on what situation would look like with all other agencies. This information forecast helped us mitigate the damage” he added. He also said that scientists and other agencies were quick to ascertain the cause of Uttaranchal tragedy to a rock that fell on glacier, causing avalanche. “And our agencies under MHA such as NDRF and ITBP and even Air Force under defence ministry coordinated with Uttarakhand government for a timely response to further damage. I hope the Opposition must never do any politics over a tragedy” he added.With Thanks-TOI

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