8 March 2022
Raini: the forgotten victims of the Chamoli disaster
Last month saw the first anniversary of the Chamoli rockslide and debris flow disaster in northern India. Inevitably attention has moved onto to other concerns, although the damage caused by the disaster has yet to be repaired. Earlier this week, the journalist Kavita Upadhyay tweeted some images of the aftermath of the disaster:-
This is Gaura Devi's famous Raini village known for the Chipko movement. It is sinking and sliding, a glimpse of which can be seen in the photograph. The use of explosives for the Rishiganga dam had made Raini vulnerable, & after last year's disaster, it has become uninhabitable. pic.twitter.com/s4iwPXDwzf
— Kavita Upadhyay (@Upadhyay_Cavita) March 6, 2022
Included in the thread was the image above the village of Raini, which continues to suffer serious landslide issues in the aftermath of the debris flow. As Kavita notes, Raini was suffering substantial problems even before the disaster, possibly linked to environmental damage caused by the construction works for the hydroelectric scheme. The debris flow has most likely eroded the toe of the slope, triggering largescale movement that is now impacting most of the village.
The Google Earth image below was collected in the immediate aftermath of the Chamoli disaster. It shows Raini perched on the slopes above the river. The slope looks highly unstable:-
Back in the summer, the Hindustan Times highlighted the ongoing concerns about Raini. It quotes a report compiled by geologists working for the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Initiative (UDRI):-
“The Raini village is facing serious slope stability problems where the whole area is affected by active subsidence whereas downslope is affected by toe erosion. During investigation wide cracks were observed in the walls and floors of many houses indicating active slope movement in the area. It is therefore advisable to rehabilitate Raini village to an alternative safe location.”
Relocation of the village is inevitably the preferred option, but this is being resisted by the inhabitants of the village. This is understandable – relocation is a deeply traumatic experience that often leads to very adverse outcomes for those affected.
As we head towards the 2022 monsoon, the situation for Raini is likely to become acute once again. For the population, the legacy of the Chamoli disaster is permanent dislocation.