Chandan Das delves into the fact that in an agricultural economy where early monsoons should come as a pleasant surprise, catches us unprepared — despite all the warnings!
Ah, what a warning for a thoughtless man, Could field or grove, could any spot of earth, Show to his eye an image of the pangs Which it hath witnessed,-render back an echo Of the sad steps by which it hath been trod! – William Wordsworth
Development?? Uttarakhand is a DECADE back now!!
Till early 1980s, there were just a few hutments at the base of Kedarnath. The developments around the Kedarnath shrine may not be considered ‘urban’, but they have typically urban characteristics: density, haphazard construction with lightweight materials and large paved areas. In its Guidelines for Management of Urban Flooding, 2010, the NDMA observes that “urbanisation leads to developed catchments, which increases the flood peaks from 1.8 to 8 times and flood volumes by up to 6 times.” While official estimates say forest cover has increased in the Himalayas, a number of credible independent studies have found significant discrepancies in this claim. The fact is that forests have been diverted for a host of land use activities, such as agriculture, human settlements and urbanisation. Indiscriminate development in the hill towns, mushrooming guest houses, hotels and all manners of illegal encroachment taking place along the rivers, it was just a disaster waiting to happen !!
So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves ?
The Sleepy “Predictions”
Yeah, it is true that the monsoon rains arrived unexpectedly early, and the precipitation was four times the normal in a space of a very few days. The latter aspect would have made relief and rescue difficult, and there might have been a big toll of life and property in any case. A surprise early monsoon should be welcome news for much of the subcontinent, whose mainly agricultural economy is dependent on the rains, but not if it catches us unprepared — despite all the warnings! The “argument” is that a low pressure system over Chhattisgarh interacted with a western disturbance to bring unprecedented rainfall almost a fortnight to a month early (c’mon guys give me a break!!). The fact remains that each year rains have the same catastrophic effect on many urban centers mainly because our civic infrastructure is incapable of handling the first downpour, let alone what follows . Not that our major metropolises were much better prepared: we could see what flooding did to life in Mumbai or to Delhi airport’s swanky T3 terminal!!
But the point is why the www.imd.gov.in could not see it coming? Why don’t we have credible weather stations? What responsibility and accountability the Central Water Commission, the State Disaster Department & the Ministry of Environment and Forest have? I am not even too sure that the Indian Meteorological Department had given any warning of the impending disaster and, if so, whether the warnings were given in time for the civil administration to alert people and take steps to minimise the damage. Today, the Met office is passing the buck by saying the state government had been warned about torrential rains on Friday night. Even if local administration had understood the implications of meteorological data, it didn’t have much time to put out effective warnings across a state where 65% of the area is under forests. Wanna hear a joke? The met office, with its weather satellites and multiple equipment upgrades, hasn’t been able to demonstrate any measurable improvement in its predictions over the years!!
So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves?
- Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part IV (missionsharingknowledge.wordpress.com)