Wednesday, August 14, 2013

चेतावनी प्रकृति की: २

उत्तराखण्ड कार्य में सहभाग से संबंधित यह एक अंग्रेजी  नोट-



This brief note highlights lessons that we should learn from situation in Uttarakhand and perhaps other parts of our country. When we talk about calamity in Uttarakhand, influence of media make us to believe that it is limited only to Kedarnath and Chardham Yatra and it is just a matter of relief and rescue of stranded pilgrims. But actual field experience unfolds before us the fact that this is of significantly vast dimension than it is generally perceived. Around 20 lakh Ha agricultural land is destroyed and a large scale terrain has become endangered. In fact it is an urgent and severe memorandum of the nature to us. The nature is trying hard to tell us that we have taken a wrong course and we should change its direction and if we do not, then we should be ready to bear with the disastrous consequences.

Definition of the Problem

While going for reconstruction work in Uttarakhand through an NGO called Maitri; it was thought that the team would have to distribute ration and other supplies; would have to treat the patients and extend their help, true, this did happen. Maitri group worked in around 20 villages near Jauljibi and Dharchula region in Pithauragarh district and health camps were conducted in almost all villages. People from these villages were given ration, food, clothes and other supplies. Maitri is working in collaboration with local government and NGOs such as Arpan in Askot. But what was seen was not limited to this. Distribution of food, ration, medicines, clothes, books, necessary supplies; conducting health camps; monitoring with governmental agencies and local partners can be seen as a very noble initiative; but it is rather primary kind of work. No doubt, it is needed at initial stages and as a short term strategy; but the situation is so grave that one should do much more than this kind of surface work.

We need to reconsider what the problem is. Mere floods and damage due to floods is a very superficial problem. Primary cause of the floods was concentration of clouds near Kedarnath and it was due to an event called Western Disturbance. Similar to Eastern coast storms and US tornados, a dense cloud pocket was formed near Kedarnath and adjacent glaciers and after its limit, it broke off and it resulted in very heavy rains in surrounding parts. When we have an East Coast storm, say in Machhalipattinam or Vishakhapattinam, we have cloudy and rainy environment in areas which are as distant as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. That is the impact of such a climatic process. The same can be said about flash floods. Although, its epicenter was near Kedarnath, it had huge impacts in all nearby high mountain regions. This is the high altitude Himalayan range where many rivers originate. When it rains in huge proportions within short time, all these rivers and their tributaries and connecting water streams are bound to overflow and ultimately cause huge destruction. This destruction and ways to mitigate it; ways to reconstruct losses is what we can do at this level. But, this calamity, the real calamity is manmade and we need to go into the roots. We need to have a holistic understanding about the scenario. Ground experience reveals the following alarming facts.

Alarming Facts
  •           Himalayan region is a special class of topography and it needs to be maintained well with a well defined framework of development. If we can manage with restricted vehicles in Matheran and in Lavasa, why we cannot manage with low level of burden on this region?
  •  ·   After flash floods, it is seen that all recent settlements are endangered and unstable. Roads, lands and farms near river and slide- prone region are more or less unstable. Even villagers are afraid to live in their original places; but they are also equally hesitant to leave it for uncertain future.
  •       It came to know that climate in Himalayan region is changing sharply. Now even at high altitude such as 6000 meters instead of snowfall, it rains there. Actually there should be only snowfall at such high altitudes. It is a symbol that climate is changing significantly.
  •  ·    There have been large scale encroachment of man over nature and it  resulted in the form of small- scale destruction by newly formed mountain water streams. There are many examples where newly formed streams have displaced entire villages.
  •     Tree cutting and physical encroachment has led to large scale changes in patterns of water flow and soil erosion. Trees have been cut significantly and therefore, there is not much scope to retain water and soil in the mountains. Lack of trees has given way to more streams and soil erosion. Also, it is resulting in increase of landslides and rock falling.
  •      It is observed that rivers are trying to flow in a straight way and this is likely to destruct whatever comes into their ways. Flows of rivers such as Kaliganga, Dhauliganga are changing sharply and they are likely to displace more settlements. It is seen that there was unusually high temperature in mountains before this flashflood (It was 46 degrees Celsius in Haridwar in May, for example). It suggests that equilibrium of nature is disturbed.
  •       BRO (Border Roads Organization), army and other paramilitary forces are constructing roads, bridges and path- ways in a brilliant way. That is a great relief to villagers whose roads are destroyed and who need to be courageous enough to climb 5 or 10 kilometers in mountains and carry their ration on this improbable path. But these newly created roads are far from permanent. Conditions are such that all these settlements are likely to be hampered in next flood or landslide. When a road is created, some part of a mountain has to be destroyed and therefore its hold becomes loose inviting future trouble. Although Himalaya is highest mountain in the world, it is so unfastened that it can easily collapse in scarcity of trees and soil.
  •      Check dams were useful to control excess water from rivers and they have prevented some losses.
  •      It is seen that newly constructed iron bridges were destroyed by the rivers; but old foot ways were largely intact and in fact they have been the only access link to remote mountainous villages.
  •       Cattle, agriculture, horticulture and vegetation are also components that are adversely damaged and thereby huge gap is being created.


It can be said that now there are three key concerns- alternative livelihood, framework of sustainable development and rehabilitation. These things are extremely tricky that if Himalayan habitation continues to undergo changes like this, then we may not be far from situation where we would have to declare this entire region inhabitable.

And this message is not just for Himalayan region. It is for us also. Repeated floods in cities, collapse of highway and damage to life and property due to streams and rivers which are buried in their own beds, uneven rains, human burden over resources etc. are memoranda at a primary level. It is high time that we learn from this and reframe our framework of development. But do we really want to learn from this lesson?  What we can do is extend our small help to affected people of Uttarakhand. We can also rethink about our own environment and assess it for better alternatives.

For direct help, one can contact Maitri team:;, 02025450882.

पिछला भाग: चेतावनी प्रकृति की: १

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis of current situation, reasons behind it and possible solutions.


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