Uttarakhand, Avoidable environmental tragedy in India

Many of our policy makers seem to have entirely forgotten how extremely fragile our eco-system can be. Several places in the world are just used to enrich other regions no matter at what cost for the local environment and inhabitants.

On several continents we can find criminal negligence and apathy of the administrative machinery exacerbating the tragedy of materialism and greed.

Banderpoonch peak, the source of Yamuna, as se...

Banderpoonch peak, the source of Yamuna, as seen from Mussoorie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Massive flooding kills and isolates thousands in Uttarakhand, a predictable disaster caused by the ‘development’ policies of India’s ruling class

It is one week since Uttarakhand’s worst disaster in living memory. Flash floods resulting from extremely intense rainfall swept away mountainsides, villages and towns, thousands of people, animals, agricultural fields, irrigation canals, domestic water sources, dams, roads, bridges, and buildings — anything that stood in the way.

A week later, media attention remains riveted on the efforts to rescue tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists visiting the shrines in the uppermost reaches of Uttarakhand’s sacred rivers. But the deluge spread far beyond the Char Dhams — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath — to cover the entire State.
– Ravi Chopra, The Hindu

The lack of proper disaster management infrastructure in Uttarakhand, the delayed warnings, and moreover the government’s refusal to act on the warnings from the Meteorological department in Delhi brought the catastrophic flooding in the Himalayan hill state of Uttarakhand, India, which has received little coverage in the western press. Official reports say over 800 people have been killed, but local observers and journalists put the  figure in the thousands. Many more are stranded, and outbreaks of disease are feared.

The majestic Himalayas, which feed several rivers including the Ganga and the Yamuna and their tributaries, are relatively young mountains. These ‘new’ mountains need to stabilise with time, only then can they even attempt to cope to some degree with constant destabilising assaults in the form of massive construction of roads, highways and dams.

Time and again, environmentalists have pointed out that the large-scale mining activity in the Himalayas, the spate of hydro power projects, roads and highways will have serious consequences. Landslides and flash floods are after all not new to the people of the region – and with the increasing intensity of implementation of the ‘development’ project, this has only phenomenon has only strengthened in intensity.

The facts speak for themselves: around 300 big and small dams are being proposed over the Himalayan rivers, and according to a study (by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming and University of Delhi) this will result in the submergence of about 1700 square kilometres of forests.

Mining activity in the Himalayan region has also intensified. And together with the construction of large dams, this process has resulted not just in massive deforestation but also in the literal blasting of the young hills and deposition of huge amounts of debris in the Himalayan rivers.

As the Uttarkashi disaster in 2011-12 proved only too well, deposition of debris from dam construction and mining into rivers accentuates the possibility of flash floods during heavy rains. Moreover, with the government of Uttarakhand bent on promoting unregulated tourism (mostly religious tourism), the levels of traffic on the hill roads have already alarming levels.

Please do read more about it in:

An avoidable environmental tragedy in India


Floods devastating the Himalayan region

  • A Man-Made Himalayan Tsunami? (thejakartaglobe.com)
    On the outskirts of Rudraprayag, a town in the northern Indian state of  whose many temples draw tourists and Hindu pilgrims with magnetic force, visitors often stop for a meal at a popular hotel built right on the river Alakananda.One of the two head streams of the Ganga, the holy lifeline of India that gushes from the Gomukh snout of the massive Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas, Alakananda is revered as a goddess.
  • Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part IV (missionsharingknowledge.wordpress.com)
    I agree to the fact that the very nature of topographical, geological, geomorphological and seismic situation in Uttarakhand makes it prone to large kinds of disasters. It is part of young Himalayan mountain, prone to landslides, erosion and flash floods.  And this is not something new. Similar disasters have been found in other countries like China, Italy & USA and even in UTTARAKHAND, the Asiganga hydropower project had played a key role in the Uttarkashi disaster a couple of years ago. I mean you cannot avert a cloudburst, but you can certainly reduce the damage!
    we should at least try and be prepared by rechecking urban water draining infrastructure lest we suffer due to the monsoon that is in fact our saviour. But nobody, barring a handful of environmentalists, ecologists and local people, paid heed to the warnings. A place that is prone to disasters because of fast-occurring climate change should be guarded with utmost sensitivity towards ecology and environment, but the administration closed its eyes to all illegal constructions!!
  • U’khand: Locals believe moving Dhari Devi idol caused the cloudburst (ibnlive.in.com)
    An angry river, sparing not even the gods. In the hills, tales of nature’s fury are a part folklore and a part faith. Some locals believe Uttarakhand’s tragedy is rooted at the Dhari Devi temple outside Shrinagar.
  • Indian landslides leave thousands trapped in valley (guardian.co.uk)
    As many as 4,000 people are believed trapped by landslides in a valley near a Hindu shrine in the Indian Himalayas, days after floods killed more than 100 people.

    Indian landslides

    A damaged road near Govindghat in Uttarakhand, India, after heavy monsoon rain caused landslides. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

    Helicopters have ferried rescue workers and doctors along with equipment, food and medicine to Kedarnath in the state of Uttarakhand, the nearest town. Most of those stranded are Hindu pilgrims who were visiting four shrines.

  • The untold story from Uttarakhand (thehindu.com)
    The national media’s focus on the plight of tourists has grossly distorted the true nature of the tragedy even in the Char Dham area. It has not reported on the fate of the thousands — almost all male — who come from the villages in these valleys (and elsewhere) to earn a major part of their families’ annual income on the yatra routes during the tourist season. They help run the dhabas that line the entire 14 km trek route from GauriKund to Kedarnath; they sell raincoats, umbrellas, canes, walking sticks, soft drinks, water bottles, home-made snacks and other supplies. On their backs, they carry children, the old, the infirm and tourists who are simply unfit and out of shape to walk the entire route. They run along the path with their ponies or horses carrying yatris.
    The impact of the floods on Uttarakhand’s tourism leads to larger questions of what kind of development Himalayan States should pursue. Before delving into that, it is important to understand the nature of the rainfall that deluged the State. Already several voices are arguing that the deluge is a random, ‘freak’ event. Odisha’s super cyclone in 1999, torrential rains in Mumbai in 2005, and now the Uttarakhand downpour constitute three clear weather related events in less than 15 years, each causing massive destruction or dislocation in India. These can hardly be called ‘freak’ events.
  • Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part I (missionsharingknowledge.wordpress.com)
    On 15th June 2013 a calamity “Himalayan tsunami” arrived and a tragedy struck Uttarakhand that was waiting to happen for a long time now. The rivers flowing across the famed pilgrimage sites became so furious that they submerged whole towns, washing away shops, homes, hotels and lodges.  Buildings collapsed like pack of cards as swollen rivers pounded down the denuded hills making a poignant view. The lofty green mountains, that would inspire even a deadpan to break into a song earlier, became barren. Today, as I write this , almost 62,000 of pilgrims have been left stranded, 1000 plus lives have been lost (oh yeah, the toll is likely to rise), property worth crores and the world-famous pilgrimage Kedarnath, located at a height of 11,760 feet , has been damaged by the latest fury of the monsoon.
  • Uttarakhand Tragedy And War Of Taking Credit ! (sadhanatiwari.wordpress.com)
    During this natural calamity Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi was not in India for about a week. Relief material that was meant for needy people at Uttarakhand was delayed by several days just because congress wanted Rahul Ghandhi to come back from his trip and flag them off.
    After he reached Uttarakhand, the aircrew of the Mi-17 V5 that crashed on a mountainside during a rescue mission led by Wing Commander Darryl Castelino who was staying at an ITBP guesthouse in Gauchar was forced out because of his visit to Gauchar and Guptkashi.
  • The Great Himalayan Tragedy (chattersense.wordpress.com)
    Nature gives us several warnings not to mess around with the Eco-system.  As a human race we simply choose to ignore all ominous signs of threat until it’s too late. Now several generations of families have become a statistic, etched in history as pilgrims that were driven by faith fell victims to man’s folly.
    Rescue operations are still underway and in full swing at times hampered by uncooperative weather. It is unfathomable that a country like India that touts its economic strength and desires to be called a “developed nation” does not have a disaster management system in place. If it was not for the armed forces we could see fatalities in the hundreds of thousands. The government was paralyzed in action. There seems to be no planning, no crisis management or sound directives as preparedness for such disasters are not even conceived in theory.  Will this be a wake-up call or just another chapter in India’s apathy towards its citizens and country as a whole?
  • Uttarakhand Tragedy and the “Asafal Yatra”!!! (anandkumarrs.wordpress.com)
    Let’s look at the responses, reactions from different quarters of the society as the tragedy panned out:
    Blame game by politicians – Opposition party BJP pointing finger on the ruling Congress on the construction,… and ruling Congress giving it back saying these were started during erstwhile BJP rule …
    While on Industry, where were Bollywood and its famed stars??? If rag pickers in Delhi and inmates of Tihar can come together and contribute for the flood relief, why not the Kapoors, Kapurs, Kumars and the Khans???

    • Littering places with plastic leftovers is our National common pastime. The choking of drainages in flood situations like this never deters us from doing the same next time!
    • Had people heeded to warnings may be the human lives lost would have been much lower
  • Horror in Uttarakhand (planmyholidayindia.wordpress.com)
    The chief minister said about 30,000 people had been evacuated till now from the hills and other places and that there was no danger to those who were still stuck in certain areas. ‘It’s very tragic that so many people have died in this calamity… It will take another 15 days to complete evacuation.’

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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