ShongTong, Kinnaur, 7 August, 2016, 0630 hours:
“Babu ji, jaldi utho, nalay mein pala aaya hai!”, said the watchman after storming into our room at the Forest Guest House in ShongTong. We had arrived late last night (around 3 am) and intended to leave for Maling Khata today as part of our Kinner Kailash yatra. I was still weary from last night’s journey having driven from Shimla to Shongtong, but I managed to immediately get up and followed the watchman out the back door to a place from where the nearby nala could be clearly seen. The sight was frightening. The nala had taken the form of a slush made of mud sweeping away stones of about 70-100 kgs effortlessly!
Then, suddenly, the flow and the water level started increasing rapidly. The roar of the nala grew even more intense with every passing second. From just a mere stream it had turned into a raging river with the water level just a few feet below a motorable bridge built on it. The earth beneath my feet started to shake with the tremors getting stronger with every second. I could see onlookers on both sides of the bridge stopping vehicles from crossing the bridge. This mighty stream was now carrying along with it huge rocks which were about the size of a tempo traveller and taking away anything in its path – even trees could be seen tumbling down as the water flowed into the Satluj!
It was so loud that I couldn’t even hear myself. After a few minutes, the water started receding, a retention wall built on one side of the nala got damaged and started collapsing, but no serious damage was done, although the nala had managed to erode away the soil and stones holding the massive retention wall.
As the water receded even further, the muddy slush became more and more water-like (which was because the ‘pala’ was coming to an end). The stream had even changed the pattern in which it had been flowing earlier. Earlier the water had been flowing from where I was standing, but now it had shifted to the other side with lots of debris deposited making a small path from which the water was flowing. The nala had even managed to push the mighty waters of the river Satluj making it narrow by depositing boulders and soil at the confluence.
I had never witnessed such power of water ever before. I was informed by the locals that the nala often gets flooded in the rainy season. The bridge on it has also been destroyed many times and the last time around the bridge was built higher than ever before. This time around, it had rained for two days and this was the third time the nala got flooded during these two days, today being the most deadly. I could easily imagine how the water could destroy the bridge on it.