13 May, 2021

The Condammed Space

The Chamoli carnage is a repeat reminder of perils springing from man’s attempts to alter the natural flow of things in a fragile land

Nature’s fury
Wreckage of the recent Chamoli glacier burst.
Photographs by PTI
The Condammed Space

Dev Bhoomi, they call Uttarakhand. Going by the past 30 years, the gods must be angry. The 1991 Uttarakashi earthquake cost 768 human lives. The 1998  Malpa landslide left 221 dead. The number of casualties in the 1999 Chamoli earthquake was 103. The 2013 Kedarnath floods left 5,700 dead. Many smaller disasters punctuated these.

All these disasters relate to earthquakes or water activity. Often both. “The Himalayas are very fragile, crumbly and young. They are not the Alps. They are prone to erosion, landslides and seismic activity. The terrain means these things will happen, and climate change may worsen it,” says Rajesh Thadani, a PhD in Forest Ecophysiology from Yale.  “If the adm­inistration calls it a natural calamity, that’s just lack of foresight. It is like sitting under a rock which you know will fall, and when it falls you say there is nothing we could have done.”

Yet, we seem to go from disaster to disaster without any planning or foresight. A basic step after a calamity is to set up a body to find facts....

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