Ecocide, Anthropogenic disaster. What the heck is that? Well, my environmentalist friends would know what I’m talking about. It’s the result of nature’s fury triggered by human kind. We’re the culprits of Uttarakhand disaster. A national tragedy that has yet again given a golden opportunity to the political parties to throw cuss words at each other and score their selfish political points.
Back in college years while pursuing my Master’s degree in Environmental Science, I had all core environmental concepts down pat – global warming, anthropogenic triggers for environmental degradation and disaster management. That was just on examination papers then; today I see all that translating into a horrific reality. The truth lays bare that we’ve invited the nature’s wrath. Our Mother Nature has simply responded to the human greed for incessant, rampant development.
Being an avid nature lover, I now don’t miss even a little opportunity to frequent mountains. My last few visits were close. So, I could spend a lot of time amidst the serenity of the snow capped Himalayas – the same fragile mountain ranges that are now a witness to menacing flash floods, landslides and resultant colossal loss of lives, bloodbath, and devastation all around. On my most recent visit to the Himalayan terrain, I was aghast to see the distressed state of the exotic locale. The whole valley was littered with dirt, polythene bags (mind you, it’s banned there), debris and eroded silt. The mountains stood nude, devoid of their vegetation cover.
Reckless commercialization, depleted forest cover, extensive mining, incessant road construction, massive hydro-electric power projects coupled with criminally tardy response of the Central and State Governments to the environmental concerns and alarms raised by environmentalists from time to time – have cumulatively resulted into the catastrophe of this immeasurable quantum. My friends, it’s a man-made or more technically anthropogenic disaster that has taken place in Uttarakhand, an ecologically fragile and seismologically risky state. It’s ECOCIDE (eco = environment; cide = killing) – Development at the expense of ecology. What we reap is what we sow!
Government claims loss of over 1,000 lives; whereas, the victims, who’ve survived narrate a heart-wrecking count of over many thousands. We certainly cannot blame nature for all the destruction. The preliminary assessment of the response to the disaster portrays the state government to be falling woefully short of disaster management standards. In Indian scenario, the Indian Metrological Department (IMD) is the nodal agency that issues early disaster warnings. The Uttarakhand government turned a deaf ear to all the warnings of the IMD and failed to make adequate disaster management control framework. Neither did it do anything to check the uncontrolled religious pilgrims count in the state. Even in this torrent of emotional anguish, no succor – emotional or administrative – reached the stranded people.
Nearly a lakh of citizens, mostly elderly people, women and children were stranded in the flood-ravaged areas for over 10 days. Till this moment when I write this piece, over 3,000 people are still battling for their lives in the worst-hit terrains. Amidst all this commotion and hour of national grief, I’m dumbfounded to observe politicians shamelessly attending the News Hour debates and publicly displaying the chronic disease they suffer from – Verbal Diarrhoea. One political party downplaying the other. It’s time to shame this greedy brigade of politicians, who overlook the environmental issues and keep mincing money from their nexus with big corporate houses for permitting the setup of these commercial projects.
At the same time, I bow my head to salute the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and ITBP personnel, who fought against the vehemence of nature and risked their own lives only to save thousands of stranded pilgrims. A few of them have even martyred in the line of the duty.
It feels great to see some joyous scenes of teary-eyed reunions and tremendous pain to watch the dejected faces of the bereaved families.
Going by the reports, North East India is the next region to be hit after Uttarakhand calamity. Let’s wait and watch what proactive measures our Central Government and State Authorities take for disaster preparedness and management.