In­dia Pri­or­i­tiz­ing Ef­forts

Flash floods in In­dia con­tinue to wreak havoc in poverty stricken ar­eas through­out the coun­try. Re­lief ef­forts and disas­ter man­age­ment must fea­ture highly on the govern­ment’s agenda.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Da­niah Ish­tiaq Da­niah Ish­tiaq holds an MBA from the In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The In­dian govern­ment should im­me­di­ately pro­vide re­lief to those

af­fected by the flash floods.

One might say that flash floods are a yearly oc­cur­rence in this re­gion but what is it that makes this calamity so dif­fer­ent? The an­swer lies in the fact that the loss of life this time around has been much more than in pre­vi­ous years.

The ‘Hi­malayan Tsunami,’ which struck In­dia in June is said to have been trig­gered by ex­ces­sively heavy rain­fall of more than 220mm (8.6in) in a re­gion home to the head­wa­ters of the river Ganges. From the western Hi­malayan state of Hi­machal Pradesh, homes, ho­tels, roads and bridges have been washed away by the tor­ren­tial rains and swollen rivers, even caus­ing havoc along the moun­tain­ous ter­ri­tory from Kedar­nath down to the plains.

One might say that flash floods are a yearly oc­cur­rence in this re­gion but what is it that makes this calamity so dif­fer­ent? The an­swer lies in the fact that the loss of life this time around has been much more than in previ- ous years. As the mon­soons ar­rived in In­dia a month early, the plethora of Sikh and Hindu pil­grims, who ac­tu­ally num­ber up to more than 60,000, were still present rather than hav­ing re­turned home, as is usu­ally the case.

Many have been left won­der­ing what role hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties have to play in th­ese fre­quent oc­cur­rences. Peo­ple muse that per­haps a mul­ti­tude of hy­dro­elec­tric projects have fur­ther ag­gra­vated the cause. Ac­cord­ing to Deb Mukher­jee, an ex­pert on the Hi­malayas, the mon­soon sea­son was but one fac­tor amongst sev­eral oth­ers; Mukher­jee holds both, nat­u­ral and man-made fac­tors, re­spon­si­ble for this ex­tra­or­di­nary disas­ter. He claims that the sud­den cloud burst, the na­ture of Hi­malayan ge­ol­ogy and the of­ten en­vi­ron­men­tally un­sound de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion have all con­trib­uted to the tragedy. The ex­ces­sive boom in tourism has put a se­vere strain on the Hi­malayan in­fra­struc­ture. It has also shaken up the Hi­malayan ecosys­tem, which com­prises of moun­tain­ous ter­rain and glacial bod­ies.

The mod­ern-day nat­u­ral oc­cur­rences are a re­al­ity of cli­mate change, change that can­not be stopped. Since 2000, the western Hi­malayan states of Ut­tarak­hand and Hi­machal Pradesh have wit­nessed an aver­age of three cloud­bursts per mon­soon. But the rav­aged vil­lages of the flash floods tell the grim story of how In­dia is ill equipped to han­dle the nat­u­ral dis­as­ters it faces which is fur­ther ex­ac­er­bated by a weak in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning.

The loss of ecosys­tem ser­vices is price­less and ac­cord­ing to the PHD Cham­ber of Com­merce, 11% of the Gross State Do­mes­tic Prod­uct is lost due to a de­cline in prospec­tive tourism. Trag­i­cally, the most af­fected by such a calamity have been the poor, with lands and shops hav­ing been washed away and en­tire liveli­hoods de­stroyed. Hi­machal Pradesh Chief Min­is­ter, Virb­hadra Singh has said that the tragedy has pushed the state one year back in terms of de­vel­op­ment and around ninety per­cent of cash crops, par­tic­u­larly the ap­ple crop, have been com­pletely de­stroyed by the flash floods in the Kin­naur dis­trict.

In re­cent times, peo­ple, on the ba­sis of anonymity have also made claims of the in­tense po­lit­i­cal pres­sure be­hind the poor in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment that is tak­ing place at an alarm­ing pace. This in­di­cates lack of good gov­er­nance and cor­rup­tion at the pol­icy plan­ning level.

As the 2014 elec­tions ap­proach in In­dia, po­lit­i­cal par­ties will need to re­vise their stance and start propos­ing poli­cies whereby the govern­ment and key stake­hold­ers will en­gage the com­mu­ni­ties and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in mak­ing them aware of the flood risk in view of cli­mate vari­abil­ity, along with tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity of dis­as­ters and for­mu­lat­ing crises man­age­ment cells to re­spond to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. With all the re­lief ef­forts pro­moted on pub­lic and pri­vate plat­forms via do­na­tions, an­other grave threat looms over good in­ten­tions: fake do­na­tion web­sites that are emerg­ing in cy­berspace. Such web­site op­er­ate by means of emails as well as posts on so­cial net­work­ing sites that re­quest for do­na­tions to­wards fake re­lief funds.

Good gov­er­nance is no doubt the key to a bet­ter fu­ture but the ef­fort needs to be at both ends. Com­mu­ni­ties need to re­al­ize the in­her­ent dangers of liv­ing on moun­tain­ous ter­rains and the govern­ment bod­ies need to iden­tify and com­mu­ni­cate with high­risk ar­eas so that the com­mu­nity may take ad­e­quate mea­sures in time. As the com­mu­nity be­gins to rise from the rub­ble left in the af­ter­math of the Hi­malayan Tsunami, se­ri­ous ef­forts must be taken to mit­i­gate the risks as­so­ci­ated with nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in ex­treme poverty rid­den ar­eas.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.