Last year, we Indians were ruing shortage of rainfall and this year, they have been rattled by a fast advancing monsoon. The way various north Indian states have been crippled by the onslaught of monsoon, especially Uttarakhand, it raises one pertinent question: We are never prepared to face any eventuality, whether it is drought or flood, apart from creating a lot of noise in the media and politicising everything we find at our disposal.
Landslides and flash floods are not something new in the hilly state of Uttarakhand, more so in the recent times. Several thousands of pilgrims have been left stranded, many lives have been lost and the toll is likely to rise, property worth crores has been damaged and even world-famous pilgrimage in the state have been damaged by the latest fury of the monsoon. Rescue operations are on but it is never easy to undertake such task in challenging terrains and adverse weather conditions. Why don't we take a minimum precaution to tackle such devastating natural calamities?
Hydro-power projects & mining behind the disaster?
We do not have the slightest of idea about the impending danger even when there are repeated warnings. Experts have warned that rapid deforestation and reckless construction work in the hilly region have facilitated such natural devastation. Setting up several hydro-power and mining projects in the hilly terrain of Uttarakhand have invited the trouble and authorities have remained aloof. Blasts used during constructing tunnels and mining have made the soil vulnerable. And this is not something new.
Similar disasters have been found in other countries like the USA, China and Italy and even in the state, the Asiganga hydropower project had played a key role in the Uttarkashi disaster a couple of years ago. Frequent blasts carried out to make the dam and the debris falls into the river, raising its water level and whenever there is excessive rainfall, the water spills over to inundate the adjoining areas.
Reckless felling of trees also makes the soil lose and cause landslides. Reports said more than 220 hydro-power and mining projects are running in 14 river valleys in Uttarakhand and one can well understand the extent of danger the state has invited for itself.
Lack of precaution despite warnings
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 National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had spoke 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?
We Indians are yet to understand the basics of a security culture. Whether there is a terror strike or a natural disaster, it is only after the blood is spilled and lives are lost that we decide to act. Just feeling proud of being a democracy and an emerging super-economy isn't enough. We also need to get our basics right.
The question is: Are we too many quantity-wise and too little quality-wise to effect a change for the better?