This Article is From Jul 10, 2013

Uttarakhand's bane: Unending landslides hamper relief operations

Joshimath: The silence of the Himalayas is shattered by another thundering explosion. The Border Roads Organisation is the 'guilty' party: it's clearing yet another landslide by blasting into them.

First the cloudburst and now heavy rains have caused chaos all over upper Uttarakhand, blocking roads and hampering relief operations.

On the way to Govindghat, Seva Singh, head of the Joshimath Gurudwara, stops his car to check if a just-repaired landslide is safe enough to go through. "Because of two landslides, about 550 cars were stuck here in Govindghat for 20 days. Rations couldn't also move ahead and had to go by air. During the monsoon the problems here are immense," Mr Singh says.

There is a real risk to life too. Once cleared, the roads are too narrow for any maneuvering and the margin of error is zero. One mistake and it's all over.

The Border Roads Organisation, over-stretched as it is, faces the real danger of repeated landslides.

 "In many places, the mountains are just soil and stone and not solid rocks. Once a landslide occurs, the entire slope becomes unstable," Vikram Singh of the BRO explains, pointing at slush, rainwater and mud flowing down the mountain of debris.

Even for experienced hill folk, the dangers are real, especially when it gets dark and foggy. "Once dark, there is no guarantee.  We inform the passengers and they decide whether they want to drive on or go by foot," the BRO officer said.

Even though landslides are routine here during the monsoon, Uttarakhand can certainly do with a dry spell. And a breather.