Greenpiece: All across Himalayas, India needs to rethink

Published on Jan 09, 2023 06:10 AM IST

While in the past, developing the Himalayas became a project on a war-footing, saving the region will also have to be undertaken on a war-footing. Plans must be modified. Not all plans have to be stopped, but they must all be re-examined.

Cracks appear at houses in Joshimath in Chamoli district, Sunday, January 8, 2023. (PTI Photo)
Cracks appear at houses in Joshimath in Chamoli district, Sunday, January 8, 2023. (PTI Photo)
By, New Delhi

The saga of Joshimath sinking is exactly the chronicle of a death foretold. In fact, it’s been foretold for 30 years, from a 1976 MC Misra Commission report to the 2006 report from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology. Both these warned against undertaking any construction or activities, because the area is vulnerable. Yet, tunnels are being blasted in this Seismic Zone V area, putting the town in great danger. Roads and other infrastructure are being proposed and dams have been built upstream. It is clear that this region cannot take anymore.

While in the past, developing the Himalayas became a project on a war-footing, saving the region will also have to be undertaken on a war-footing. Plans must be modified. Not all plans have to be stopped, but they must all be re-examined.

India just cannot afford Himalayan catastrophes. It costs lives, money and our security. Joshimath should not be the only focus.

All across the Himalayas, India needs to rethink. While military needs are paramount, the safety and sustainability for local people must be the other focus. Without this, we risk displacing people from their own homes and cultures. Moreover, we will struggle with internally displaced persons.

This is not the government’s task alone. The state can set norms, push behaviour change, but members of the middle class which seek leisure and a second home in the region, will have to uncomplainingly shoulder longer journeys into the mountains and be agreeable to a more simple life, instead of islands of luxury that are drowning local people and biodiversity.

(The writer is founder and director Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Bharati Chaturvedi is an environmentalist and writer. She is the founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group.

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