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Editorial

HT EDIT-Floods in north India: A man-made disaster Reckless infrastructure development is leading to environmental costs

August 20, 2019 05:45 AM

COURTESY HT EDIT AUG 20

Floods in north India: A man-made disaster
Reckless infrastructure development is leading to environmental costs
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), on Sunday, said Himachal Pradesh received the highest-ever rainfall in 24 hours, since records began almost 70 years ago. The situation in neighbouring Uttarakhand is equally grave. In both states, rainfall has triggered landslides, snapped road links, shut down hydropower projects, and forced the release of excess water from dams. Such intense and excessive rain in a short period is a clear indication that both states are bearing the brunt of climate change, a manmade phenomenon, and also paying a heavy price for unbridled development in this ecologically fragile region.

What we are seeing in the two states is also a result of successive central and state governments’ wrong development policies, which have a single-point focus: Build more and more infrastructure, without taking into account a region’s natural environment. Let’s take two examples: The Delhi-Manali highway (Himachal Pradesh) and the Char Dham road (Uttarkhand). Both are being expanded for more vehicular traffic and tourists. In both cases, environmentalists and courts have raised red flags. In the case of the Himachal highway, they allege that the National Highway Authority of India is dumping construction debris into the river Beas, leading to floods. In the second case, the project will refurbish 900km of the damaged highways with bypass roads, flyovers, and bridges. All these will be done by blasting and cutting the mountains.

Such large-scale development is happening in a place that has already seen a mega-disaster in 2013. At a time when the State should assess the carrying capacity of the Himalayas visà-vis the ecosystem services (benefits that humans gain from the natural environment and properly functioning ecosystems) they provide, government planners are just doing the opposite: Burdening an already overburdened and fragile environment.

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