Environment & Biodiversity

Himalayan Region Disasters (Uttarakhand)

The most recent disaster to strike the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand was the sinking of the Joshimath. Although climate change has precipitated these events, the most significant underlying causes are poor planning and a lack of vision.

Recent disasters on Himalaya

  • Kedarnath floods: Nature has already warned us about the dangers of the Himalayas. According to official records, the 2013 Kedarnath floods killed over 5,000 people.
  • Nepal earthquake: The 2015 Gurkha Earthquake in Nepal killed up to 8000 people.
  • Floods in Pakistan: The recent floods in Pakistan have rendered millions homeless and devastated.
  • Joshimath Sinking: The ‘Joshimath sinking’ phenomenon has received national and international attention. Other cities and towns in Uttarakhand, however, are also on the verge of collapse. Joshimath is the first to succumb to human pressures, fortunately without causing any harm to human lives.

Reasons for Himalayan disasters (Uttarakhand)

  • Construction in Restricted Zones: The geological fragility of Uttarakhand is well known in both scientific and popular circles. Building houses on vulnerable slopes is prohibited by government policies and bylaws.
  • Making rash decisions: Almost everyone now has access to the internet and can find information. Yet, as mindless construction over vulnerable slopes continues unabated, one is compelled to question the role of technological advancement and information abundance in environmental decision-making.
  • Bureaucratic ignorance: The technicalities of science and academic jargon are difficult for bureaucrats to comprehend, and laypeople and bureaucratic mindsets only interact with the research community for obligatory and cosmetic reasons.

Infrastructure of mountainous area and plain area

  • Normal construction methods for fragile ecology: We have continued to borrow practises from other places for use on the Himalayas’ delicate eco-geological systems.
  • Gurugramisation of Uttarakhand: The development of Gurugram’s infrastructure took its toll on Gurugram itself. Gurugram-style development is extremely damaging to the Himalayas. Uttarakhand’s “Gurugramisation” must come to an end.
  • Ignorance of laws and regulations: The gap between science and policy has encouraged disconnected decision-making and encouraged individuals to casually disregard bylaws and regulatory policies. Every ordinary Uttarakhandi is forced to live a life of uncertainty and fear.

Case study of Nainital

  • Nainital, one of the most vulnerable cities in the entire Himalayan region, is prone to landslides. The Nainital Lake is located on an active faultline and is surrounded by landslide-prone slopes.
  • Earthquake prone area: It is located in an earthquake-prone area (Zone IV). Small and large landslides have continued to threaten the city since its founding in 1841. The most devastating was a landslide in 1880 that killed 151 people.
  • Construction on vulnerable slopes: Despite robust scientific evidence, building bylaws, and an informed citizenry, the city’s brutal assaults on its biophysical environment continue. More than 15,000 people now live on the slope that collapsed in 1880 (less than a fraction of a second earlier on a geological time scale).
  • Ground water exploitation: The Nainital lake level dropped 18 feet in 2017 as a result of excessive water withdrawal from the lake bed to meet local and unprecedented tourism needs. Such a decline has never occurred before.
  • Tourism activities that are mindless: The crumbling “Balianala” is the most serious threat to Nainital. To make matters worse, construction work on the lake’s most important recharge area, “Sukhatal,” is currently underway. The goal is to increase tourism-related activity. But the question is whether a city that receives over 10,000 tourists and 2,000 vehicles per day during the summer and weekends needs more tourism.

@the end

The carrying capacity of Himalayan cities has been reached. The natural infrastructure is worn, and signs of impending collapse are visible to the naked eye. For the Himalayas to be sustainable, the government must amend and implement construction laws and regulations.

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