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Krishna Kumar Singh, also known among friend circles KK and among close relative Krishna; Matriculation from Mithila High School Balour, Darbhanga in 1959, Graduated in Political Science Honours from C M College, Darbhanga, Bihar University in 1963; Joined post-graduate in Political Science the same year but dropped; joined Naxal movement under Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Satya Narayan Singh and Umadhar Singh in between but circumstances compelled to join literary work, clerk, proof readers etc in different publishing houses for livelihood; Finally joined journalism as career in different English newspapers and before my retirement from active journalism, I worked in The Times of India for about 19 years and retired as Chief Reporter  a few years back; continuing in journalism-reading more and more, writing more and more and praying to Almighty more and more-currently writing for different national English and Hindi dailies and magazines..

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

UTTARAKHAND TRAGEDY DUE TO NATURE'S FURY : ULTIMATELY A MAN-MADE DEVASTATION !


Any conflict with 'NATURE' results into huge tragedy. India has witnessed many disasters since long but  some of the 'key' natural disasters since independence over 60 years ago appear to be fall-out of 'playing with nature' by WE Indians as well as successive union and state governments. India is mainly a nation of 'water (sea and rivers), mountains including most fragile mountain Himalayan range and huge forest ranges, particularly Dandakaranya, which stretches from West Bengal through Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhatishgarh, Madjya Pradesh and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, now popularly known as "red corridor" and home to millions of  India's tribal population. The naxalites are running parallel government in the entire Dandakaranya forest range !

The recent Himalayan tragedy in Uttarakhand and havoc followed by torrential rains has caused huge loss to life and property in the newly created tiny states, particularly to the Pilgrims of 'chardham' for the worship of Kedarnath and Badrinath (abode of the Lord Shankar and  the Lord Vishnu). Over 10000 people are estimated to have perished besides huge loss of property and infrastructures of the state. Before this Nature has also played havoc in the form of earthquake in Latur in Maharshtra and Gujarat, sea tusmaniu in the coastal areas of sought India , huge flood of Kosi, originating from Nepal, in north Bihar and much -much and more-more.

Are the nature furies being caused by unnecessary interferences in the courses of nature in mountain, sea, forest etc ? The hill state-Uttarakhand- is originating point of Ganga river from Himalayan mountain range. These areas have 'chardham pilgrimage', which draws Hindu believers to undertake 'yatra' once in a life time. Since the liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1980s in the name of 'so called development'  Uttarakhand has witnessed rampant construction and unmindful digging and explosion of hills, resulting into unbalances in the preserving ecosystem and the harmonious balance with human beings. Such practises are being adopted in almost all the states by disturbing forest, rivers, sea, mountain etc in almost all parts of India !( My earlier essays on my link-www.kksingh1.blogspot.com  -Dangerous signal for Nepal and India because of climate changes in Himalayas.......June 04,2013; Beautiful Mount Everest......April, 27, 2013; Tribal and poor are being uprooted....February 22, 2013; Great loot of farm and forest land in India......July 11, 2011 ).

The flash floods in Uttarakhand have caused damage in all the hilly districts and also parts of Nepal. But Rudraprayag, the home of Kedarnath shrine, which draws thousands of pilgrims every summer, has experienced much -much devastation. This disaster was much more beyond one's imagination. Floods and landslides washed out 41 roads and 28 bridges , both small and large and also damaged 188 state government buildings. Apart from unstimulated death figure of over 10000 people, many continued to be stranded and missing despite best efforts of Indian Army, Indian Air force, and paramilitary forces, who worked for continuous relief and rehabilitation iin the devastated Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.  The calamity  was caused by cloudbursts and unprecedented heavy monsoon rainfalls. Eminent journalist and writer Praful Bidwai, who  has written an article in the Guardian under headline-India floods: a man-made disaster, says, " the true causes of the epic tragedy lie in the grievous damage recently wrought on the region's ecology by the runaway growth of tourism, unchecked proliferation of roads, hotels, shops and multistory housing in ecologically fragile areas and above all mushrooming hydroelectricity dams that disrupt water balances. Underlying the disaster are multiple government failures too."

In this way man-made  ruins have converted the entire region into extreme weather event into a social catastrophe. It is a fact that the region experienced heavy rainfall of 340-370mm within 24 hours on June 16-17, resulting into flash flood. But such thing is not unprecedented. Cloudbursts, floods and rapid swelling of fast flowing rivers are not uncommon. Uttarakhand has had recorded single-day rain fall in excess of 400mm several times, including 450 mm in 1995 and 900mm in 1965. But this time the flood waters, laden with tens of thousands of tonnes of silt, boulders and debris from dam construction, found no outlet. The routes they took in the past including ravines and streams were blocked with sand and rocks. The water inundated scores of towns and villages submerging some buildings under several feet of mud, smothering life. aggravating the devastation were downpours of water and rocks from higher mountain ranges in all probability caused by glacier lake outbursts and l floods, which deluged the Kedarnath temple, a major Hindu pilgrimage centre. Because of that the explosive bursting of glaciers lakes are thought to be a consequence of human-induced climate, which is causing rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, themselves warming at twice the global rate.

If one take all these things into consideration, if an early warning system existed, such a massive loss of life could have been averted. There were no effective  warning system and evacuation plan as well as a responsive disaster management system. Notably the comptroller and auditor general of India  (CAG) had pointed out in April itself that Uttarakhand Disaster Management Authority, formed in October 2007, has never met or formulated :"rules, regulations, policies or guidelines" Modestly priced radar-based technology to forecast cloudbursts would have been saved lives. But it was not installed. Nor was emergency evacuation plans drawn up. Praful Bidwai again writes, " there was local-level governance failure, too,. Haphazard, unregulated construction of roads and bridges was allowed on crumbling, landslide-prone ridges and steep slopes, ignoring the region's fragile geology and high earthquake vulnerability. Forest were destroyed on a large scale. Hundreds of buildings were constructed in the flood plains of rivers, their natural terrain, which should be no-go areas. Riverbeds were recklessly mined for sand. And construction debris accumulated, land contours and flows of streams and river changed."

More importantly, indiscriminate building of hydroelectric dams was the worst culprit, These involve drilling huge tunnels in the hills by blasting rocks, placing enormous turbines in the tunnels, destroying soil -binding vegetation to built water channels and other infrastructures, laying transmission lines and carelessly dumping excavated muck. Many dams have been built on the same rivers so close to one another that they leave no scope for its regeneration. Interestingly dams  water  are stolen from local people. They alter the hydrological cycles and natural course of rivers. Uttarakhand's 70 completed large dams have diverted more than 640 km, equivalent to half length of major rivers. They have profoundly destabilised its ecology. Yet another 680 dams are reportedly in various stages of commissioning, construction or planning, mainly by private companies, which will be largely unaccountable..

A 2009 CAG report complained that the government was "pursuing hydro-power projects indiscriminately" ignoring the damaging "cumulative effect" of multiple run-of-the river dams. Technically, India's environment ministry follows and environmental impact assessment process but that badly compromised by the Indian elite's insatiable appetite for electricity and promoters' pressure. Boom in religious tourism and hydroelectric projects may have contributed to disaster in Uttarakhand. Hundreds of new multistory hotels, apartment blocks and religious centres have sprung up in Uttarakhand, often on the flood plains of the capricious Mandakinin and Alaknand rivers, in defiance of building regulations. Several were washed away. The Himalayas are relatively young mountain range with fragile geology prone to landslides. The deluge of June 17 destroyed towns, villages, roads and bridges for more that 60 miles along the bank of Mandakinin and Alaknanda, two important tributaries of the Ganga river. The glacier ruptured under pressure of water from a severe cloudbursts, raining tonnes of ice, water and rock on the Hindu pilgrimage town of Kedarnath on the left bank of Mandakinini. The boom in religious tourism in recent years has also put a severe strains on the state's shaky infrastructures. Domestic tourism traffic has jumped up by 300 percent in a decade, to more than 30 million a year. This number is expected to be double by 2017.

 Quoting a recent article in Science magazine, Mahraj K Pandit, Director of the Delhi University's centre for interdisciplinary studies of mountain and hill environment, says , "The magazine has warned against damage to the ecosystem from badly planned, poorly monitored projects. The region is known for its biodiversity-its flowers, butterflies and Mahseer  fish. Science estimated that habitat degradation from dam building in the Himalayas could lead to the disappearance of 29 species of flowering plants and terrestrial and aquatic life. Nobody is saying there should be no dams-but the emphasis should be on securing the Himalayan landscape after understanding in fragility, not on uncontrolled development.The Himalaya is an earthquake-prone zone-so god forbids, if a major dam ever bursts the destruction it will cause will be unimaginable".

The Chennai-based think tank Tashkhashila Foundation Pawan Srinath remarks ," the devastation would have been even more widespread if the reservoir of the region's biggest dam m Tehari had not contained a significant volume of the deluge. Dams can also prevent disasters-the critical issue is not dams but proper dams management. In India we do not have a culture of public safety."

It is said that National Hindu leaders had appealed to the Prime minister not reallocate the shrine  of Dhari Devi, a local 'Avatar' (incarnation) of the fierce Hindu Goddess Kali  in Srinagar by a power company to construct reservoir as shrine will be submerged under the reservoir. But it was not heard ! The power company stealthily reallocated the   and moved 'black stone' of idol  of the shrine on the night of June 16 to save it from the swollen dam reservoir and within hours, the disaster struck. According to local lore, the Goddess protected Uttarakhand from calamities so her shrine could not be touched.

As the Himalayan mountain range is youngest, highest and longest in the globe. Rock formation in the mountain range is yet to start. There are dense forest in the areas. But its denunciation in large scale is going on in both Nepal and India sides. If such trend trend continues further, the days are not so far off when entire India region up to Ganga river in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will be wiped out with huge deposit of silts from the rivers of Nepal, eroded from mountain range. Kosi and Gandak rivers in Bihar and other rivers in Uttar Pradesh will bring huge miseries of flood water from Nepal side and the region will be practically wiped out from the scene. There is urgent need for permanent solution of flood coming from Nepal rivers to Indian rivers and plains, adjoining specially Bihar. A few years back when flood from Nepal in Kosi river had played havoc in entire north and eastern Bihar  , the union and Bihar  government had assured the people that there will be comprehensive talks with Nepal government for permanent solution of flood-but since than  nothing tangible has been done and mater  is where it lies ! People of Bihar are especially on the mercy of God !

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