Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Views of the Teesta river after Cyclone Aila (May2009) and after the GLOF (Oct2023)

During our talks with GLOF affected people in the Teesta valley, they say that many officials, politicians and others often ask them why they built their homes so close to the river; to which they answer, 'No, we never built our homes close to the river - it is the river which has now come close to us!'

When I relate this during my talks on the Teesta valley GLOF, it often draws laughter from the audience - not realizing that I wholly share the views of the affected people:

The Teesta river which was once quite far from settlements has now moved closer to homes, roads and urban areas.

I visited the Teesta river on 11Jun2009, soon after Cyclone AILA (25-27May2009) and took photos of the river from the Teesta bridge. There were no dams those days but the river was still quite big because of the SW monsoons and Cyclone AILA.

After the Oct2023 Teesta Valley GLOF, again we made numerous trips to the Teesta river and photographed the river from almost the same spot on the bridge 14years later. I have placed both below for you to see how the river has moved closer to people's homes

Facing south (towards Siliguri)
Teesta, shortly after Cyclone AILA in Jun2009. Notice the level of the river visavis the Kalimpong to Darjeeling road on the right. The river was free flowing those days since the major dams on the Teesta were yet to be built.
Teesta river after the Oct2023 GLOF. Rainfall in our area totally stopped after 04Oct2023 (when the GLOF occurred) but the silt deposits had increased the river level as such it was flowing almost at the same level as the Kalimpong to Darjeeling road (on the right)

Facing north (towards Gangtok)
Cyclone AILA (27May2009) heralded in the SW monsoons that year as such the river is still quite large. Nevertheless the Teesta Bazar (left side) was not touched by the river even during Cyclone AILA
Our entire region had drought like conditions since the GLOF in Oct2023, yet the river stretches from one bank to the other and is flowing very close to homes in the Teesta bazar (left). The river is brown and loaded with silt and debris which is being dumped into the river by people excavating their homes and belongings all along the valley and also by the tunneling being done by the railway project. All in all the level of  the river bed has increased by 3-4m after the GLOF.

A makeshift road has come up on the right bank and leads to the new IRCON railway bridge being constructed next to the existing one.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

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