How many times does the alarm ring in the morning before you finally wake up? In the Himalayas tragedy after tragedy has been serving wakeup calls, but after the immediate disaster management nothing much seems to change. In addition to the global warming that has been raising climate risks from the North to South Pole, scientists have for decades pointed to the Himalayan mountains being specially unstable because of the tectonic plate motion here.
In the plains when you make a construction mistake, you can correct it, even if the correction is expensive. But after you have cut a mountain, that’s it, there is no fixing any error. Using the same development model in both places means the paths for both rain waters and glacier melt get blocked, buildings come up in river beds, tunnels are blasted without the safeguards that the environment needs, roads are built without respect for the scientific surveys of the area, and in general experts are sidelined, their reports ignored by engineers.
After the Kedarnath tragedy of 2013 the Union environment ministry accepted that “deforestation/ tunnelling/ blasting/ reservoir formation” need caution and careful study in the higher Himalayan region. And yet, when Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district saw the Tapovan-Vishnugad and Rishi Ganga hydel projects being extensively damaged in February this year, it came to light that neither caution nor careful study have become a mainstay of the region’s policy-making yet. Some of the devastation the unseasonal rains have been wrecking in the state this week is unpredictable and uncontrollable Nature’s fury. It is the man-made elements of the disaster that both the central and state governments must heed, and do course-correction.
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