The Uttarakhand tragedy is the face of climate change in India. Start expecting severe weather occurrences, very high or low, unseasonal temperatures and precipitation and rising sea levels.
Just this one catastrophe has had a profound impact on the poor. Entire lands have ceased to exist, earning members killed, small shops washed off.
The very tragic deaths apart, it’s heartbreaking to see how much worse off the surviving poor are. This can happen anywhere in India to the over 300 million poor, wiping out the long-term impacts of budget-intensive poverty alleviation schemes in a few hours. Not only have they lost their assets, but also rebuilding many assets, including the commons, is a challenge.
According to the PHD Chamber of Commerce, 11% of the Gross State Domestic Product is gone from lost prospective tourism.
The loss of eco-system services can never even be calculated and the hundreds of crores now required for rebuilding something largely preventable could have been invested in other ways.
If we don’t invest in climate change adaptation and mitigation fast, India will continue to lose many gains from schemes like NREGA. If the guesstimated costs to recover sound scary, remember another Uttarakhand will land India close to bankruptcy.
The poor simply do not have the resilience to recover and carry on with their old lives. They typically depend on natural resources and providing services. Taking decisions that exacerbate such events and ignoring climate change is therefore a crime against the poor.