Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part II


Chandan Das continues to explores the cause of Uttarakhand Floods in the second part. 

Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” – William Wordsworth

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A Disaster “Unmanaged”!!

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the supreme disaster management agency in the country set up through the Disaster Management Act of 2005, published guidelines for Management of Floods in 2008. The (NDMA) had spoken in favour of a proactive prevention mechanism instead of the usual post-event adhocism five years ago but yet there is no end to the slumber at the higher ranks. What is the use of the NDMA then? In a report, India’s constitutionally designated auditor warned that the state “had no disaster management plan worth its name despite the region being highly disaster prone”. Today, the authorities have neither a policy to regulate over-activity in the danger-prone areas and nor is there any mechanism in place to take early precautions even after knowing that monsoon is going to throw early challenges this season. The irony is that the rescue teams from the National Disaster Management Authority were themselves stuck in Hardwar in the plains rather than at work in the mountains is symbolic of our shoddy preparedness to tackle what is an annual phenomenon !!

So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves?

Eco-sensitive zone? A “Sensitivity” Lost!!

Ok let’s first understand what exactly an Eco-sensitive zone is. Once an area is notified as eco-sensitive zone, prohibited activities include hydro-electric power plants with a capacity of more than 25 MW, abstraction of river for any new industrial purposes, all types of mining except for domestic needs of local residents, stone quarrying, deforestation, burning of solid waste and so on. The National Ganga River Basin Authority had recommended 135km from Gaumukh, where the river starts, to Uttarkashi, as an eco-sensitive zone. The proposal was accepted and a notification was issued. In fact, realising the impending dangers, the state government had approved the creation of a 4,179 square km eco-sensitive zone in the Bhagirathi Valley, which put tough restrictions on tourism and hydel projects in the hill state. But then the authorities themselves compromised with the fragile ecology of the region (Is there any doubt the Hydropower lobby was largely behind the opposition to the proposal?) . And please note, it’s with both the governments of Uttarakhand (present and previous) who opposed it, as the state assembly had unanimously passed a resolution, opposing any move to declare the Gangotri-Uttarkashi stretch as an ‘Eco Sensitive’ zone.

Referring to an inter-ministerial group (IMG) report is catering to the hydro power lobby and has not even tried to look at the impact of the projects with any seriousness. It has manipulated project data. It is an unfortunate report and a-month-and-a-half after it was published, it has been concealed from the public domain. The television images of houses, hotels and commercial establishments cracking, collapsing and then getting washed away in flash floods bear testimony to the scale of corruption that the Uttarakhand state is submerged in!!

So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves?

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1 thought on “Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part II

  1. Vandita Gaurang

    Chandan I totally agree with the corruption part and the ignorance of sensitivity zones by the Govt., local authorities, guilty and corrupt constructors and miners involved in illegal mining in Ganga. Definitely the nature has its own history of cleaning up the upgrades and downgrades on its soil and reset it to nature’s settings time to time. But the problem is not only the authorities chose to ignore but people the aam janta can’t be bothered as well they get concerned a bit when things come up in media or the protests but aren’t news just for knowledge and no action so they go back to their own comfort zones. Didn’t we see Uttarkashi disaster years back any many more…. but will we learn anything?

    Reply

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