The recent incident of cloudburst in Leh has set alarm bells ringing in the administration as well as among environmentalists in the region who fear that this could recur more forcefully and wreak havoc.
According to scientists, the Ladakh region, especially Leh, is very vulnerable to cloudbursts and flash-floods as the region is witnessing rapid climate changes. Most of the scientists working in the University of Kashmir on this subject attribute this change to the overall global warming and the receding glaciers in the region.
Prof Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, who is a keen watcher of Ladakh climate and a known geologist, told The Sunday Guardian that the region is undergoing unusual climate changes. “The Ladakh region is turning hotter and there is very little snowfall during the winters. The glaciers are receding and many small glaciers have vanished in the recent years. These changes can result in frequent flash-floods and cloudbursts in the region,” he told this reporter. He said that recent studies conducted in the region have shown that there is almost a 3-degree Celsius increase in the temperatures in the entire Ladakh region and this has been going on over the past several decades. He said that the temperature is rising in Ladakh at a greater speed than in the rest of the places in Jammu and Kashmir.
Another researcher and scientist, Prof Shakeel Ahmad Ramshoo of University of Kashmir, said that recent data have shown that cloudbursts are becoming a part of Ladakh’s life. He said that these cloudbursts are happening at a good frequency now and it is disturbing for both scientists and the government. He said that many people in the Ladakh region are worried over climate change and the recent cloudburst has again made them realise about the bad days ahead.
He further said that the scientists so far have not compiled any comparative studies or data to know exactly how much increase is there in cloudburst incidents in the region. He said that there have been many cloudburst incidents in the hills of Ladakh in the past few years but these have gone unreported. Ramshoo said that only those cloudburst incidents have been reported that happened around Leh town.
Whatever is the opinion of the scientists, the devastation that many villages of Leh witnessed on 8 August due to the cloudburst has rattled the officials and they are trying to find out remedial measures. Earlier, in August 2017, several persons were washed away in flash-floods caused by cloudbursts. Such flash-floods also caused a lot of damage to houses and agriculture fields in Leh area.
Most horrifying was the spate of cloudbursts in Leh in the year 2010. It resulted in massive flash-floods, killing around 300 people. It also washed away dozens of houses. The floods of 2010 had created a panic in many villages and the affected people had to relocate to safer places.