On February 7, 2021, a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off releasing the water trapped behind the ice, creating an avalanche and deluge that quickly turned into flash floods in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district.
The glacier burst generated a sudden flood in the middle of the day in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga, and Alaknanda rivers — all intricately linked tributaries of the Ganga — triggering widespread panic and large-scale devastation in the high mountain areas.
Two power projects in progress — NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project — were extensively damaged with several labourers trapped in tunnels as the waters came rushing in.
At the time of writing, 58 bodies have been recovered while over 150 are still missing. Of 150, 34 labourers trapped inside the Tapovan tunnel are feared dead.
Damage caused by Uttarakhand floods 2021
The district of Chamoli in Uttarakhand were hit hardest by the surging Dhauliganga River. The flash floods washed away the Dhauliganga Dam at the confluence of the Rishiganga and Dhauliganga. According to Uttarakhand Police, a bridge in the Tapovan area that connected 13 villages was washed away in the avalanche.
Among the places most severely hit by the floods were Joshimath, Rini, Nanda Devi National Park, Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Plant, and Sridhar. According to RK Singh, Union Power Minister, the flash flood in Uttarakhand resulted in an approximately Rs 1,500-crore-hit to NTPC Ltd’s 520 MW hydropower project, Tapovan-Vishnugad alone. Besides the two power projects, Pipal Koti (4x111 Mw), the hydro project of state-owned THDC, and Vishnuprayag (400 Mw) of Jaypee Group also faced damages.
Uttarakhand floods rescue operations
Many villages were evacuated as authorities emptied two dams farther down the river to stop the floodwaters from reaching the towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh. Two C-130J Super Hercules with 3 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the rescue mission.