Cities of Uttarakhand could face calamities worse than the one they are coping with now should any disaster strike again.
It is not only Kedarnath, Badrinath, Govind Ghat, Harshil or Srinagar that are under threat, many developing places of Uttarakhand have emerged as cities on edge owing to the distorted model of development in which environmental concerns have been bypassed for commercial gains.
Many areas of Uttarakhand lie in earthquake-prone zones, but still the buildings do not conform to scientific standards.
Nainital, which is the one of the most attractive destinations for tourists because of its placid lake, is in a danger zone as experts have said that the lake is itself struggling to survive.
The water levels of the lake are receding due to urbanisation, increasing pollution and silting – as much as by 16 feet in 2012.
Rampant construction for commercial purposes is continuing in the catchment areas of the various lakes, and hotels are inching closer to the banks to provide a close view from balconies.
This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court had passed an order banning the construction of multi-storeyed group housing societies in Nainital.
‘1,000 bodies surrounded us’
As the death count claimed by authorities keeps changing daily, Jeet Singh, a resident of village Malli, who witnessed the catastrophe said the death toll could be in thousands.
“A gruesome scene awaited us in the jungles where more than 1,000 bodies were scattered. About 60 people in our group died of exhaustion, hunger and illness, without any help for three days.”
This is Jeet Singh’s recorded statement and if he is to be believed, there may be thousands dead in and around Gaurikund and village Gauri.