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If recent happenings and their out comes are an indication it is not only being strongly felt but decidedly there is an urgent need for Himachal Pradesh to have a fully functional (up to grassroots level) disaster mitigation Action Plan to coup up with the natural disasters that have shaken the State.

                The unique geo-geographic setting at the northern-western fringe of the youngest mountain chain (The Himalayas) bounded by two major thrusts i.e. Main Central Thrust (MCT) and Main Boundary Fault (MBF) running parallel to the Axis, resulting in several other lineaments piercing the zone into several fractured/ faulted blocks, active faults.  This in turn has placed the State’s majority areas in most active seismic zone (V) in the country.  In the disaster prone area map of the country Himachal has attained its position among first five States in respect of (natural hazards) i.e. Earthquakes, flashfloods triggered by cloud burst, landslides, avalanches and forest fires.  The frequent draughts in summers in areas otherwise falling in zone (IV) of seismic belt (i.e. Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, part of Kangra and Solan districts) have added insult to the injury.  The previously mentioned disasters have caused immense loss of property, natural wealth, human lives ((which cannot be substituted by any monitory value).  The cloud bursts and flash floods alone are projecting a horrifying picture.   During last 12 years (1991-2003) nearly 36 major cloudbursts and flash floods. (*For details    see separate box), till the latest one in the Solang Nallah (Manali) & Pulia Nallah (Gadsa Valley) both in Kullu district have been recorded.


                 In which over 2000 human lives were lost, property worth 270 crores (in terms   of documented real estate), damaged or washed away. The loss of livestock, natural wealth including forest cover (trees) and fertile soil accounts for over 1800 crores.  The disaster of this intensity and magnitude has forced the state (STATE) to rethink and evolve a strategy to combat natural disaster aftermath, put a well-devised disaster mitigation plan (fully functional at the grassroots level) into the action wherever the need arises.

                The wise men learn from others mistakes but those who learn from their mistakes are wiser, but our experiences in the past and of the recent happenings (in Gadsa Valley Kullu; Lulani in Baijnath, Rai Khad Rampur in Shimla district) envisaged that despite fall claims and loud mouthed announcements the disaster mitigation has never been on the serious agenda of (both private and Public sectors)and the  government).  Had it been put into action the Gadsa Valley (Pulia Nallah) would not have been repeated within fortnight in Solang Nallah (Kagni Nallah) in the same districts.

                With exploitation of 22000 MW hydro electrical potential, 300 thousand million tons of limestone for cement and allied industry aided by Slate quarrying along (producing almost 60% national output) Chamba-Kullu (Via Mandi) belt (5 Km width).  The indiscreet mining, rock cutting ,deforestation, undeterred use of high explosives for mining along with over ground, underground debris generation and off loading into river beds, by Circumventing the laws, camouflaged by legal flaws.  The Big Dam construction companies and cement industry has added to the woes of the State government in disaster mitigation.  The need for functional disaster mitigation plan has been necessitated for the evident response of the State’s administrative machinery and approach of local administration, PRI’S in dealing with the situation.  The entire lot appeared not only confused but off track in action, those who are on track are off  the mark (the electronic media had brought these flaws to full public view).

                It is not the case that there is no action plan or disaster mitigation charter/report does not exist in the State.  It does exist but perhaps not put to action in time other wise Pulia Nallah aftermath directions and announcements of the Chief Minister  would not have been forgotten to allow Solang Nallah, Rai Khad to happen. The disaster mitigation Action Plan (DMAP) in consonance   with the Yokohama (May 1994) strategy and Action Plan, must include, historical documentation (of the previous happenings of disaster& in an area); mapping (of disaster prone areas, resources and risk factors), Training (of both men and machines) Practice ( of both men and machines, in the form of drill and mock exercise); Awareness (through IEC, i.e. Information ,Education ,Communication), Proper legislation(proper legal provisions and its enforcement); contingency plan preparation ( To avoid TINA factor and Murphy’s law  of uncertainty). It is not only in the State of Himachal Pradesh, It has been observed that weather it is cyclone in Orrisa or Earth quake in Gujrat & Uttarkashi, floods in Assam or Draught in Rajasthan, often whenever the disaster struck (mostly it comes without warning and, suddenly) its meteoric impact shattered the administrative machinery into bits & pieces unlike the disaster prone area in developed nations Indian psyche lacks both responsive & responsible actions in administration on contrary It has also been a silver lining that local people always rose  to the occasion & before any help from the State reaches the effected and the marooned the locals offer enough help.  The red tapped government machinery often found to be arising out of Kumbhkarni sleep, at the time of disaster and only  acting as reactionary force on specific instruction.  This lack of professionalism is perhaps attributed more to system’s approach and conventionalism (being followed for last 55 years or so as ICS legacy).  The case of tones of rice and other relief material lying unclaimed even months after coastal cyclone at railway stations of Orrissa and truck loads of food and shelter aid  and medicine stranded in Bhuj days after Gujrat Earthquake respectively for want of relief and rehabilitation action plan, strengthen our theises for need of a well planned disaster mitigation plan and well oiled machinery to implement it.  Most of the time particularly in case of relief and rehabilitation; after rescue) the disaster mitigation operations are being implemented like a doctors team going for major surgery of a patient without pre-operative study and preparedness for any complication arising out of complex surgical operations, directly into post operative care in a multi- specialty hospital.

                The historical documentation of the various disasters (natural and/or man made) shall helping formulation of a well-directed mitigation plan, reducing the confusion and callousness both.  For example it is Kullu district of the State which is most effected by cloudbursts, after that Shimla and Chamba follow suit.  Kangra on the other hand had seen several Earthquakes, Una and Bilaspur are draught prone, hence need based area specific mitigation plan can be prepared if we have proper documentation  of the events of the recent past.  The Quick Action Team (Rapid Action Force) (RAF) at State-District and Sub Division/local level having representation of Administrative-Local, PRI-NGO (combined).  This type of broad based team often proves handy in taking vital decisions.  These teams at respective levels must be having adequate powers (sanction/decision making), resources (both men & material) and information at its disposal.  It has been often observed that lack of information (on extent of damage and relief required) always send rescue and relief operations hey wire.  In the present set up the relief is with the agricultural ministry as subject, which often neither has proper  inputs  nor mitigation plan /implementation to carry out relief work.  In the state now, need for a separate nodal agency for disaster mitigation is being felt up to sub division level.  Due to improper co-ordination between various agencies involved   in rescue/relief/rehabilitation many a times either the relief get so much delayed that it becomes irrelevant when it reaches the last man. Or do not reach the most effected when they needs it the most.  Thus timely and adequate help is Key to successful disaster mitigation plan.

                The resource mapping like historical documentation shall help in stocking, sharing and distribution of relief material as per need, replenishing the stock when required.  Since during almost all-natural disaster except drought the communication and transportation net work is one item, which fails the first.  Due to earthquake, flood, flash floods and cloudbursts it is the road, telecommunication and electricity supply, water supply links get disrupted.  This hampers both rescues as well as relief operations.  The contingency plan must include bailey bridges, rope bridges, helicopter service or alternative road route connectivity 0to the area of distress well documented.

                The frequent training of all the personals involved in implementation of disaster mitigation plan needs regular and adequate training (to perform their respective role).  The testing and mock  exercise are the backbone of successful plan (like military exercise).  In country like Japan even, the kindergarten and pre- school playgroups are taught how to combat earthquake.  In 2000 in Himachal after government’s intention to give, serious thought to disaster mitigation plan mock exercise on Earthquake had nearly cost a senior officer his job in the administration for the hue and cry made by media over such exercise without prior knowledge.  Such an attitude need to be shun.  Training and refreshers at regular interval for all those involved in such operations must be made mandatory.

                The awareness of common people and sensitization of official machinery through coordinated IEC (Information Education and Communications) is the soul of the disaster mitigation plan at any level.  Unless the people are more aware of the natural calamities and resultant impacts the tragedies like Pulia Nalla, Lugri Bhatti, Manimehash, Chirgoan, Sanghani Nalla (Solang) are bound to repeat.  In IEC the role of NGOs and schoolchildren, youth are of prime consideration. Use of folk songs, local dialects and effective use of Audio-visual media (both electronic and print) can be  of great help.

                The enforcement of proper regulations, rules and laws in natural calamities (disasters) is the biggest problem despite the fact that being parts of zone (V) in seismic activity the ban on high-rise buildings (more then three story is being flouted by public and government agencies alike.  The TCP Act, labour laws, environmental, laws are held at ransom by construction companies and Industrial groups to make fast buck (through unscrupulous profit earnings).  The government and law enforcing agencies are equally responsible for these omission & commissions.

 The cement industry, the constructions companies involved in hydroelectric power generation projects sub let  the project works without proper sanctions, do not register workers (to avoid EPF payments, other dues) but are never punished.  Effective enactment and implementation of laws and legislation is key to successful mitigation. With wireless, ham radios, control rooms, trained man power to handle the situation, keeping nerves, adequate relief material (well catalogued and stored) including tinned food; essential life saving drugs, safe drinking water, shelter; clothings; well prepared (updated) directory of listed contact phone numbers of agencies and personals involved in the plan.  Rapid Action Team (RAT) having training and mock exercise skiing with military precession; responsive and responsible administrative machinery undertaking, rescue, relief and rehabilitation work with human consideration (even by passing the relief manual if required and without any malice) are essential elements.  The state of Himachal Pradesh since is being frequented too much with natural disaster and catastrophes the need for a disaster mitigation plan functional at the lowest level is need of the hour.


DURING 2003 alone (12 incidents) since July 2003-

1       Rai Khud (near Sarahan in Rampur Sub division (Shimla) in which loss of crops, cattle’s was reported 8th July 2003

2       Chunahan (Balh valley) Property, crops and real estate, cattle worth crores washed away due to flash flood-13th July, 2003.

3       Gadsa valley (Pulia Nalla) in Kullu district loss of life over 150 (though reported only 35), 16th July Expected loss over 100 crores. 

4       Balh valley in Mandi district in Gaggal area heavy loss of crops, fields and property reported. 20th July, 2003.

5       Bahang in Kullu Valley (near Manali) 2 people lost lives, property, houses damaged 24th July 2003

6       Jhakri area in Rampur Tehsil (Shimla) Indo-Tibetan Border Road, land slid caused huge loss, danger to NJPC, buried dead, a few went missing 26th July 2003.

7       Dansa (Bari Dhar) in Rampur Tehsil (Shimla) cloudburst caused extensive danged to coops, apple orchards, agricultural land, 27th July 2003.

8       Lulani village in Baijnath (Kangra) cloudburst revel lent f lash flood damaged houses, 5 killed 18 families marooned 2nd August 2003.

9       Shilara on Rampur - Shimla (NH) road witnessed landslide road blocked 3 August 2003.

10  Bhagsunath (Kangra) land slid caused one dead, 2 injured 3 August, 2003

11  Balh Valley (Mandi district) witnessed yet another cloudburst extreme damage to crops and ferhla land 6th August, 2003.

12  KAngni Nalla (Solang) in Manali area cloudburst left BRO labours 36 dead 20 stall reported missing 7th August, 2003.

13  Kotkhai Tehsil (Shimla) cloudburst caused, transport bus with passenger washed away 15 had miracle escape 7th August, 2003.                    


Beside these over 40 such incidents of flashflood, cloudbursts in last 12 years have come into light of these the Chirgaon and Wangtoo flashflood, cloudburst related damage was so extreme that even army fell helpless. Over 350 feared dead.  Prior to this 1994-95 (August) the Manimahesh cloudburst and flashfloods washed away almost entire length of Chamba-Bharmour road (62 km), over 50 people fearead dead, 2000 injured.(estimated loss over 450 crores)

1997 again saw a heavy flashflood in Maglad in Rampur Tehsil of Shimla District.

2000.  The Monsoon brought nightmare for people in Satluj catchment\ areas, the dead bodies even reached up to Kasol- Chindi (Mandi) over 150 lost their life, several thousand men lost their  livelihood.  Loss of life and property worth (200 crores).



18-small termours were recorded at various earthquakes recording observatories  in the State. After 1905 the great Kangra Earth quake, H.P. has witnessed several Earthquakes too where loss of life and property was also huge and irreparable

Jan 19, 1975 Kinnaur Earth quake IX on mm scale, 60 people dead, 2000 dwellings divastated ( Keeping in view the sparse population, topography the casualty figure is too high.

April 26 1986  Dharmshala Earthquake VII on mm scale, but shallow, epicenter close to 1905 quake, only 6 people died but caused extensive damage to buildings.

April 1994 Chamba Earthquake : Shallow, small area of influence around Chamba town  epicenter near Sahoo.

1995    Sunder Nagar-Joginder Nagar

1996    Dharamshala Earthquake.



·                    The natural disaster mostly strike without fore warning hence can rarely be predicted in Advance.

·                    Each disaster causes damage of different kind both in extant and intensity

·                    Each disaster prone area being geographical location specific (with diverse geo-demographic setting and vulnerability) needs specific planning.

·                    Local resource documentation (both men & material) availability and preparedness be checked periodically

·                    Use of conventional communication means and modern (including wireless & Radio, short wave communication, SOS signal) be well planned.

·                    The NGO,s and religious, social organizations working in the area be included in rescue- relief, rehabilitation work(roles well defined)

·                    The companies undertaking major construction work, mining or Industrial production be forewarned to keep complete documentation of work force, Group Insurance be made mandatory  for them ,this will reduce not only burden on State exchequer but even -social costs shall go down .

·                    Laws, legislations and Rules involving public safety norms be well documented, pronounced and implemented.