It is hard to react with anything but horror to the floods in Uttaranchal. But we need to get down to acknowledging and addressing the root cause of this kind of catastrophe.
Apart from the much discussed absence of early warning systems or adequate disaster preparedness, one of the more frustrating aspects of this is the way by which the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), gave clearance to hundreds of hydel projects along the Upper Ganga.
As the South Asia Network on Dams, Development and People has pointed out, in the last 6 years, the EAC has not rejected a single hydel project here.
This is not due to lack of evidence of seriously flawed projects, but despite it. On television, facebook, though popular writing, round tables, direct and legal petitions, and sit-ins, protests abound against nearly 680 hydel medium and large projects, which make the area more ecologically fragile and vulnerable.
The EAC constantly rejected all these, and gave the green signal. Clearly, they have turned out not to be experts, and should certainly not be allowed to be part of any government committee again.
This aside, all ministries of the government should re-consider how they make policy, to the exclusion of external knowledge and aspirations. We need a governance structure that can embrace diverse opinions in its decisions, not sweep them under the carpet as annoyances.