On February 7, when I saw the videos and pictures of the Uttarakhand tragedy, I had goosebumps. On seeing this, it started running in my mind that is this Part 2 of the Uttarakhand 2013 floods? Thankfully, by the evening it became clear that the catastrophe is not that big. But this is not a happy thing. Because of how we are challenging nature, the way we are making a dent in the natural areas of the Himalayas, this is just a beginning.
So far 34 people have lost their lives and 170 people are missing. Soon after this incident, a social media debate broke out, what was the reason for this? Some are saying that this is a natural phenomenon and some believe that it is the result of human intervention. Scientists are investigating this matter.
3D rendering of @planetlabs image collected 7th Feb showing the source of the Uttarakhand disaster located by @WaterSHEDLab. Appears to be a complete detachment of a previously glaciated slope #Chamoli #Disaster #Landslide pic.twitter.com/SElrZh36kH
— Scott Watson (@CScottWatson) February 7, 2021
Some experts believe that this incident is the result of a glacial outburst. or GLOF. Glacial lakes are formed when glacial ice melts from lakes held together by loose debris. But when this debris is disturbed the water gushes out. But another expert, Professor H C Nainwal, a glaciologist said that glacial outbursts may not be the reason for this incident as there are no big glacial lakes in this region. The Week also reported that glacial outburst is next to impossible in winter.
There is another theory by D.P. Dobhal, a glaciologist that a snow avalanche, older avalanche, or landslide may have caused the disaster. The reason is conflicted and the scientists are still investigating the cause but one thing is very clear that it is triggered by climate change and human intervention in fragile Himalayan ecology. Glaciers are melting faster than ever.
Countries and governments are not following the Paris Climate Agreement. Earth’s temperature is rising and the glaciers are melting. The amount of water in the sea is increasing. A study done in 2019 claimed that Himalayan glaciers have been melting twice as fast since the start of this century due to climate change. The 2019 study, spanning 40 years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal, and Bhutan, indicates that climate change is eating the Himalayas’ glaciers, the researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Science Advances in June 2019, shows that glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of the ice each year since 2000, double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000.
Human intervention in the Himalayan region is destructing its ecology. The act of indiscriminate development works in a sensitive region like the Himalayas is one reason for this catastrophe. The government has used loopholes in the laws for these developments works. They surpassed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Environmental assessment is the assessment of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects before the decision to move forward with the proposed action.
Modi Government tried to dilute the EIA in the new Draft EIA 2020. When environmental advocacy organizations launched campaigns against EIA 2020, the government banned the websites of such 3 organizations. Delhi Police issued a notice, said it depicted ‘objectionable contents and unlawful activities or terrorist act, which are dangerous for the peace, tranquillity, and sovereignty of the India’, later they withdrew the notice.
They were called anti-development. Not only them, whenever any environmentalist or an ordinary citizen opposes any construction work that has the potential to damage the environment, they are also called anti-development or anti-progressive. No, we are not anti-progressive. We are pro-progressive, but not in the wrong way, not at the cost of environmental damage.
This may seem development from the eyes of the government, but this is destruction in reality, and environmentalists are against this so-called “development”.
Authorities and Governments allegedly violated the orders of Hon. Supreme Court. The government had proposed Char Dham Project — a 900-km, ₹12,000-crore enterprise to connect pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand. A controversial aspect was the proposed width of the two-line highways envisaged. A petition was filed with National Green Tribunal. The Petition said that the project violated the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.
NGT cleared the project. However, the project was stopped by the Supreme Court. The apex court also constituted Ravi Chopra Committee to assess the environmental violations if any. The SC ruled last month that a 5.5-meter width of the road be enforced, on the recommendation of the committee.
Environment Journalist Bahar Dutt wrote that in every village she had visited in the Himalayas, locals warned that the ‘mountain gods were angry’. Village after village, women were organizing a second Chipko, this time in favour of Ma Ganga. Their river had been imprisoned and they wanted her to flow unfettered else they predicted many disasters would unfold. Will the government listen to it?