Wednesday, Jul 06, 2022

Climate Change Hits Himachal As Rising Mercury Causes 'Mysterious' Seepage Crisis In Bilaspur Homes

Hydrologists, SASE engineers are befuddled at the drastic climate change in Bilaspur, where over the weekend water has been seeping from walls and floors in more than 70 houses.

Shimla in Himachal Pradesh | Image for representation
Shimla in Himachal Pradesh | Image for representation

Barely a month after hill stations Kullu-Manali, Shimla and Dalhousie experienced snowfall and extreme cold, the state’s mid-hill town — Bilaspur, 115 km from Shimla, is facing an unusual effect of climate change. On Saturday, March 19, the town saw water mysteriously seeping into residential buildings and other properties, which has also stunned the local administration. Several families had called the officials for help as they could not comprehend the problem and its widespread reach in this town, located on Chandigarh-Manali Highway uphill Gobind Sagar Lake. 

A team of hydrologists and engineers from Snow and Avalanches Establishment (SASE), Manali, visited some of the houses in Bilaspur on Sunday morning. “The experts identified two primary factors after their visit to the houses. One is condensation and the second is hydrostatic pressure. Yet, this needs an in-depth study of the whole phenomena for reaching a definite conclusion, as this has happened for the first time,” says Pankaj Rai, Deputy Commissioner, Bilaspur.

While the DC Bilaspur says there is no need for panic, he expressed his surprise over the matter. “I was astonished to see water dripping from the floors and walls. Strangely, there was no rain or flooding anywhere close to these houses. There was also no water pipe nearby to suspect leakage, etc. I have written to the state hydrologist and SASE to further investigate the issue,” informs Pankaj Rai.

Deputy Commissioner Bilaspur Pankaj Rai with experts from hydrology and SASE Manali
Deputy Commissioner Bilaspur Pankaj Rai with experts from hydrology and SASE Manali who were summoned to study water

Local businessman Shyam Angre says, “We noticed the moisture and dampness on the walls on Friday. On Sunday, my family realised that the entire floor of our bedroom and other spaces were also drenched in water. We checked all fittings, taps and water pipes but found no signs of leakage or blockade.” In all, over 70 houses in several localities viz Rauda Sector, Cinema Colony, Lakhanpur, Main Market, Diara Sector, Sector 11, and areas in nearby suburban towns of Ghumarwin, Beri Rajadyan and Barathi, also reported a similar problem. Videos and photographs of this water seepage in these houses also went viral. 

Bilaspur was built in the 1960s after the submergence of old Bilaspur town in the Sutlej river following damming of the water for the country’s first mega multi-purpose hydel project—Bhakra. The population was shifted up slope to build a new township. The Gobind Sagar – a massive reservoir in the foothills of Bilaspur has its cooling effect on the town but the day temperature rises above 40 degree C in peak summer.

Shyam Angre suspects temperature variation as the main reason behind water seepage incidence. “The days have suddenly become warm, and we require fans and air conditioners. For the nights, we require quilts and blankets. This is quite unprecedented in this month of March, though Bilaspur turns very warm in June-July,” Angre says.

Pankaj Rai also informs that some locals feel the sudden rise of temperature (approximately 33 degree C on March 19) could be highest for March. There is a huge variation in the minimum and maximum temperature as MeT officials have also acknowledged. Raj Kumar, a manager at a local business enterprise, says “mysterious waters” started coming out of the walls and floor of his house on Friday. “Within a few minutes, the entire space turned wet and looked completely deluged. We were really panicked. We checked with neighbours, and they found a similar problem.”

Monty Sharma, a college professor in the Rauda sector, also reported water discharge in the house built by his ancestors in the 1970s. “We tried to sweep the water and dry the floor by switching on ceiling fans, but within minutes the water was dripping back all over from the walls and oozing from the floor as well,” says Sharma, adding that even some of the aged locals had never witnessed such a thing in their lives. Some incidents of water leaking from the floors and walls of houses are also reported in Una, an adjoining district.

Anand Sharma, a retired MeT Director at Dehradun, says, “The matter needs a detailed study as such a thing had never been reported. It’s a fact that temperatures have shot up suddenly in the north, including the capital city of Delhi. The hills which were experiencing snowfall last month, are reporting maximum temperatures up to 35-38 degrees this month.” Several recent studies have shown that climatic changes and extreme weather conditions in the hills are on the rise. “If there are no rains in one week or so, there could be incidents of forest fires, water crisis and related effects on agriculture and horticulture crops in the Himalayan belt,” Sharma cautions.