The monsoon season is seeing loss of life and damage to property in several parts of the country, simultaneously. Early today cloudbursts in the Kishtwar and Kargil regions left several people missing and also destroyed a mini hydropower plant, even as IMD’s severe weather forecast means further flash floods and landslides may lie ahead too.
On Sunday a massive landslide in the Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh made for a horrifying viral video, even as it killed many tourists.
This month has also seen parts of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa record extraordinary rainfall and flooding. In Maharashtra the death toll has crossed 200, over 4 lakh people have been evacuated from eight districts, with most of the deaths caused by landslides. As horrifying as the picture of flooded vastlands is, the bigger one is of the lives saved, thanks to the rescue operations that are still ongoing.
It is mostly nature’s fury and climate changing. But some of this tragedy is man-made. As in 2019, Kolhapur for example once again seems to have paid a high price for construction within the floodlines of the Panchganga river. The environmentally conscious shift in the direction of development that is needed, is simply not taking place. The lessons are not being learned.
Same is the case in Uttarakhand. Many of the recommendations of the Chopra committee set up after the wakeup call of the 2013 Kedarnath tragedy seemed to have been resolutely forgotten by the time massive flooding in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district swept away the Rishiganga hydropower project and the Tapovan dam early this year.
The more we fall short of an environmentally respectful development paradigm, the more we will suffer. The second takeaway is how National Disaster Response Force rescuers, in their orange uniforms, have been a familiar and comforting sight at all the sites above. Raised in 2006, the force is now up to 12 battalions from 8. It is staffed by personnel deputed from other forces. Saving more lives in the face of more disasters will need dynamic expansion of this force, with optimal training and resources.
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