Friday, December 13, 2013

Report backlash may have contributed to Uttarakhand disaster

Sujit Chakraborty in Thomson Reuters Foundation: A report warned a decade ago about the threat posed by a glacial lake that in June burst its banks and contributed to flooding that killed thousands in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. But fears that the report – and reporting about it – were too sensational may have contributed to a lack of preparedness for the disaster a decade later, people living in the area say.

Environmental expert K.N. Vajpai, director of Climate Himalaya, a nongovernmental organisation said he fears that officials at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, which monitors Chaurabari Lake and produced the report, may have been hesitant to overstate the risk from a glacial lake outburst at the lake in the days before the disaster, given a government backlash against their report a decade earlier.

In 2004, a scientist at the Wadia Institute, a government glacial monitoring agency, warned that Chaurabari Lake posed an imminent risk to people living in the region. “Chaurabari Lake Will Explode Like a Bomb Anytime,” read a front-page headline about the report in the Indian newspaper Dainik Jagran in 2004. The story was based on a report prepared by D.P. Dobhal, the Wadia Institute’s head of glaciology, said Lakshmi Prasad Pant, who wrote the story for Dainik Jagran.

...The scientist “was severely reprimanded by the government for ‘leaking the report’ and ‘sensationalising the issue’ and the institute sent me a notice and published it in their records that my entry there was banned for life,” Pant said. Dobhal, in a telephone interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation, confirmed the report was withdrawn from circulation....

This lake near Uttarahkand is called Dodital, situated at a height of 3,024 metres (9,921 ft). Shot by Nikhilchandra81, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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