will we forget the lessons of this disaster too?
Devastating floods in uttrakhand once again draw our attention to the persistent negligence towards lessons of such past tragedies( even if none had a scale of this order may be). Would we not forget about it in a week’s time when newspapers will have something else to talk about, politicians will be concerned about how to win next elections, and society at large will think about next version of mobile phone and/or the latest fashion or film. This is a strange society and it does not mind going through the
The state administration, ITBP, and security forces must be complimented for evacuating more than forty thousand people already to safer places. They need all the support. But then we must admit that more efficient they are, less pressure we are under to tone up our preparedness. After a few days, all disasters have similar challenges, not to mention some of the location specific peculiarities.
Looking for life under the load of debris of fallen houses, hotels, guest houses; distributing essentials for the survival of local people ( at least 80-100 villages are supposed to have been completely washed away); once tourists and pilgrims have gone away, will other states and central authorities be so concerned in rehabilitating the affected communities? can we use this opportunity of rebuilding infrastructure also to renegotiate a new social contract?
What are the immediate lessons and some implications for future: a) when rains started, forewarning to pilgrims at lower elevation not to proceed further was not issued, if issued not enforced. This led a lot of travellers to move ahead and getting stuck. The local communities helped the stranded people a lot but they have not been trained to do this better; b) it is true that we don’t anticipate 400 per cent more rains in a short while, but we do anticipate more landslides and the rest of the consequences of the mindless damage to the fragile ecosystem that we have wrought so far. Can we revisit the developmental goals of the region to minimise such damage in future? can the rest of the country compensate such regions for the development foregone in deference to the socio-ecological and cultural limits; c) the habitations on the river banks without any protection from the fury of floods were completely avoidable. Norms for river bank strengthening must be developed and construction too close to the banks must not be allowed; D) A lot of people are stranded, a lot more have lost all that they had, and many more are buried under debris. Learning from 2001 earthquake, inventory of concrete cutting tools, technologies and lessons are still not pooled at one place. Given the hope of life underneath, one has to avoid gas cutters. IIT Roorkee can help as also CBRI and other IITs. A Science and Technology mission must be mounted to deal with such eventualities better in future; E) Lessons from disaster management are seldom pooled and made available in local language for wider reference. This is a long pending issue; F) Climate change, fluctuations and impacts will become more severe in days to Come. How many institutions, communities, public and private bodies have disaster management drills regularly? To what extent has the resilience of the society at large increased in the last decade ? Where is the national action plant to do so? NDMA (national disaster management authority) need complete restructuring without further delay; G) We need to mobiles all support for affected people and let us contribute generously to such a cause. Those interested can contact Dt Anil Joshi, HESCO.IN directly. Pl pray that no affected victim of this fury of nature remains without relief or rehabilitation. If you decide to pray, do pray also that mandarins at the top dont forget the huge ecological, social and cultural costs borne by local people. If number of pilgrims has to be regulated, so it be, if construction and road development norms have to be redefined, let that be, Uttrakhand must be allowed to dream a better future for all its people and the rest of the pilgrims without impairing the precarious balance between human and natural systems.