recent catastrophic flash-floods has left the holy land of pilgrims,
Uttarakhand, inundated and barren, leaving behind nothing but dilapidated
relics, heaps of mud, boulders and the dead. The loss of life and property has
been enormous and the damage would take years to recover.
the calamity that wrecked Uttarakhand was natural, caused by cloud burst and
flash floods, nevertheless the impact on human life and property is testimony
to years of haphazard and illogical development this region has seen.
Environmental laws and requirements had been violated with impunity.
Indiscriminate urbanization, unabated expansion of power projects, mining,
cutting of trees, illegal encroachments, broadening of roads and tunnels and
the illegal constructions in the fragile eco-sensitive zone, are said to be a
Uttarakhand grapples with one of the worst natural disasters the State has
faced in recent years, questions need to be raised on how far of the
destruction was preventable, and if this is a warning for the future. It is in
this light that Toxics Link in collaboration with India International Center
organized a Public Lecture on â€˜Uttarakhand
Tragedy: Man Made or Naturalâ€™ on 13th August,2013.
discussion was preceded a video clip about the disaster. The panel included
eminent speakers like Prof. Chandra Shekhar Dubey (Prof. & Head, Department of Geology, University
of Delhi), Dr. Chandan Ghosh (Head of the Geo-Hazard Risk Management Division,
NIDM), Himanshu Thakkar (Coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams,Rivers &
People) while the discussion was moderated by Mr. Ravi Agarwal (Director,
Agarwal opened the discussion by stating the need to rethink about the
ecological landscapes and the need to deal with the policy and legislations.
Expressing deep resentment he noted that it is unfortunate that we donâ€™t have
the time to pause and think about these issues. In cases of Uttrakhand tragedy
it is only when the disaster came to the fore that we started contemplating and
discussing about the issue, despite the fact that the disaster had been in
making for quite some time.
on the shoddy monitoring system, Mr.Thakkar pointed that lack of co ordination
among IMD, NDMA and the Uttrakhand government largely compounded to the
enormous scale of disaster. Advance measures on the part of administration
could have saved many lives; he noted despite heavy rains which had started on
15th June itself and despite the fact that by 16th June the river
was already in its full spate, no actions were taken by the administration. Even
the primer flood forecasting institute of India, the Central Water Commission
which is the highest technical body of water resources in India and is
responsible for forecasting floods did not forecast any floods in Uttarakhand.
shared that with appropriate motoring, risk mitigation system and forecasting
preparedness a large part of the disaster could have been avoided. It is
possible to forecast high intensity rainfall and cloudbursts for which
technology like Doppler Radar System is available and was sanctioned for the
state. This reflects how inefficient our forecasting,
monitoring system and administrative preparedness is, to deal with any calamity
of such magnitude.
Further he noted that development interventions
in a place like Uttarakhand which is highly prone to landslides, flashfloods,
high intensity rainfall, needs to take into consideration the demographic and topographical facts of the area . Rampant mining on the riverbanks and indiscriminate
construction of hydropower projects added to the disaster in making.
Gosh attributed mismanagement on the part of the Uttrakhand government and lack
of co ordination among the scientific and nodal bodies as the prime reason for enormous
of loss of life and property. He further
stated that it is a well known fact that the Himalayas are fragile, made more
so by deforestation and unorganized constructions. Experience of early /late
season rainfall, monsoons, drought early furious entry of monsoon in the recent
times underscores the fact, that all this requires greater policy attention.
there is a serious need to review our weather forecasting and forecast
dissemination mechanism considering both technological and institutional
options. The disaster has given us a wakeup call on what actions needs to be
taken ,he noted.
on the Orography Prof. Dubey noted that the whole of the Uttarakhand Region is
prone to this kind of rainfall. He said that there is a need to identify these
orographic areas where landslides are bound to happen, and start working on the
areas. There is a need to have some kind of warning system and rain gauging
systems, he added.