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Glacier collapse in Uttarakhand brings back the memory of 2013 flash floods


Originating from Vasudhara Tal, perhaps the largest glacial lake in Uttarakhand, the Dhauliganga flows in a meandering course, which takes it through the Nanda Devi National Park. Known for its spectacularly beautiful route and whitewater rafting, the river turned into a deathly torrent on Sunday after a part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off and collapsed into it.

The Dhauliganga, which merges with the Alaknanda, is one of the several tributaries of the Ganga, as the river flows down from the Himalayas and snakes its way through the plains. The tributaries intersect, flow into one another or meander away passing through several towns in five States.

In Uttarakhand, the Ganga and its tributaries pass through important tourist places such as Rishikesh, Haridwar, Rudraprayag and Karnaprayag. Sunday’s collapse of the glacier led to rippling flash floods in the Dhauliganga and the Rishiganga and also impacted the Alaknanda. This also brought the spotlight on the 2013 flash floods in the hill States that wiped out settlements and killed over 5,000 people.

Dhauliganga is joined by the Rishiganga river at Raini, where the disaster at the power project dam took place. The river takes a V-turn and continues to flow in the opposite direction, toward the north, as the Dhauliganga for another 30-odd km, through Tapovan, until it is joined by the Alaknanda at Vishnuprayag near Joshimath.

There it loses its identity and the Alaknanda flows southwest — through Chamoli, Maithana, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag until it meets the Mandakini river, coming from the north at Rudraprayag. After subsuming Mandakini, the Alaknanda carries on past Srinagar, before joining the Ganga at Devprayag near Kedarnath.

Alaknanda then disappears and the mighty Ganga carries on its journey, first flowing south then west through important pilgrimage centers such as Rishikesh and finally descending into the Indo-Gangetic plains at Haridwar. Still, on a southern course, the Ganga goes past Bijnor when it loops back on an easterly course toward Kanpur.

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