(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 30, 2013
Put In Place a System of Safe Regulations
A HUMAN tragedy of grievous proportions continues to unfold in Uttarakhand. The state’s disaster management minister has speculated the death toll due to the flashfloods could be around 5000. Many feel even this is an underestimation. Officially, more than 10,000 people are still stranded in different parts of the rain ravaged pilgrim destinations of Badrinath and Kedarnath. The latter is the most severely affected area.
Though there can
be no accurate
forecasts of when such disasters will strike, heavy rains
according to the meteorological department. Yet no
meaningful preparations were
made. The global sweep of westerlies,
which triggered severe flooding across
While such disasters are called `natural’ as science has not yet equipped us to master such occurrences, a large element contributing to such disasters are man-made. Cloud bursts occur when warm and humid air is pushed up the mountains forming thunder clouds. Due to environmental depredation, upper level winds have become rarer which, otherwise, would have dispersed these thunder clouds. The net result is the cloud bursts. Further, due to indiscriminate deforestation, the lack of vegetation cover on the ground results in these waters causing flashfloods.
Six such major cloudbursts have taken place in Uttarakhand since 1998. The destruction of forests, the unscientific damming of rivers and the indiscriminate mining of sand and stone have created a deadly cocktail in Uttarakhand for such disasters to recur. While the country continues to debate over safety of environment and ecology and safeguarding the eco-sensitive zones, Uttarakhand, unlike its neighbouring states, has not even defined minimum environmental flows for its rivers. It has planned hundreds of hydro power projects and built a few dozen already without a proper scientific study of the impact on the river flows. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) established during the UPA-1 tenure has either not risen to its mandate or, if it had made any suggestions, these have not been implemented, as is obvious.
There is another man-made element in this entire tragedy. Both these religious shrines have witnessed a four-fold increase of visitors in the last decade. Between 2003 and 2012, Kedarnath’s number grew from 1.7 lakhs to over 5.75 lakhs and in Badrinath, it went up from 1.34 to nearly 6 lakhs. Incidentally, during the same period, the inflow of foreign tourists declined ten fold! In the same period, there has been a five time increase in the registration of passenger vehicles, 70 per cent of which are devoted to ferrying pilgrims. The regulation of religious tourism has been drawn to the attention of the government by the parliamentary standing committee as well as the Planning Commission. Yet no such regulation mechanism has been drawn up, leave alone implemented in Uttarakhand on the lines of the way pilgrims to Amarnath shrine are regulated with a cohesive disaster mitigation plan. Such regulations must be drawn up and enforced in all pilgrimage centres in the country.
It is, indeed,
unfortunate that some
politicians are seeking to reap a dividend
by visiting the
media management machine of
Narendra Modi has projected him having rescued 15,000 people
reminiscent of the
While we mourn the
death of our
brethren, while we express our heartfelt condolences to
their relatives and our
heartfelt solidarity to those struggling for survivals and
offer both material
and human help, the country must
We appeal to our readers to respond to the call given by the CPI(M) for the collection of money and materials for the victims of this natural disaster.
(June 26, 2013)