SHIMLA: Nature’s fury in Uttarakhand andKinnaur district has left green activists fuming, who are now blaming developmental projects for the calamity. Noted green activistKulbhushanUpmanyu said that in western Himalayas, particularly, Uttarakhand and Himachal, a chaotic process of ‘development’ that goes back many years, exacerbated the effects of this extreme rain.

He said extensive deforestation of mountain tracts by the state and more recently due to ‘development’ projects, led to soil erosion and water run-of, thus destabilizing mountain slopes and contributing to more intense and frequent landslides and floods.

“Unchecked hill tourism has resulted in huge growth of vehicular traffic, spread of roads not suitable to the mountainous terrain, and construction of poorly designed and unregulated hotels and structures, many near rivers. Sand mining along river banks has intensified water flows into rivers,” he added

In Himachal Pradesh, various organizations like Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; People’s Campaign for Socio-Economic Equity in the Himalayas; Gujjar Kaliyan Sabha, Chamba; Sankalp, Chamba; Dalit Vikas Manch, Chamba; Kisan Sabha, Baijnath; Awas Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti, Mandi; Visthapit Kaliyan Samiti, Pandoh; Parvatiya Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, and Himat, Chamba are raising their voice against the projects, especially hydro power projects being set up in the state.

In the wake of the recent disaster, these organizations, under the umbrella of India Climate Justice, have demanded that the planning and construction of dams in the entire Indian Himalayas be reviewed, and all construction be halted until such a review is carried out and use of explosives in all such infrastructure development works should be completely stopped.

Kulbhushan, who is the chairman of  Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, said the tragedy in Uttarakhand and Kinnaur was triggered by extreme unseasonal rains. “Warmer air due to global warming has the capacity to hold more moisture, leading to more intense bursts of rainfall. The natural monsoon cycle in India has already been badly disrupted, and a new cycle of extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts have been reported from all over the country in the recent past,” he added.

Guman Singh, convener of Himalayan Niti Abhiyan, said construction and planning of hundreds of small, medium and large dams across the Himalayan states from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the northern Himalayas to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the east, have destabilized an already fragile ecosystem and threatened biodiversity. “A staggering 680 dams are in various stages of planning, or construction in Uttarakhand and 650 hydropower projects in Himachal,” he said.

Upmanyu said that a river regulation zone be enforced such that no permanent structures are allowed to be constructed within 100 metres of any river.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

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