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Disaster in Uttarakhand, Himachal, Himalayan watershed due to Indian and Chinese development fundamentalism and religious tourism

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 | 11:45 AM

Himalayan watershed disaster prone due to myopic industrialization, urbanization and tourism policies

Advocates of indiscriminate urbanization, industrialization and tourism must restore the ecological integrity of the Himalayan watershed and comprehend its geological reality to prevent such occurrences in future. Both Indian and Chinese agencies are myopically mutilating the watershed with mere monetization in mind.

Devotees of all ilk are callous about Himalayan watershed and are grossly anthropocentric in their behavior. Ecological heritage must be conserved for coming generations. This principle applies to all places of worship. No agency should be allowed to build permanent structures in ecologically fragile zones. Development fundamentalism combined with religious tourism is eroding ecological heritage. 

In the aftermath of these disasters if lessons are indeed learnt then all ongoing development projects must be reviewed and revisited and their carrying capacity and cumulative impact on Himalayan ecosystem should be assessed and the ecological integrity of the Himalayan watershed must be made non-negotiable.

It must be understood that the entire Himalayan watershed is an eco sensitive zone and deforestation in this zone has led to landslide and floods. Huge increase in building of dams, tunnels, roads and townships along with religious tourism has gone beyond the carrying capacity of the Himalayan watershed.

Meanwhile, operations at the 1,500 MW Nathpa Jhakri project in Himachal Pradesh, India’s largest hydroelectric plant has been stopped due to high silt content in the turgid and fast-moving Sutlej river. SJVN Ltd’s Nathpa Jhakri project is a joint venture between the Union and Himachal Pradesh governments. The 1,000-MW Karchham Wantoo project has also been shut due to heavy silt in Sutlej. These projects feed the northern grid. The disaster seeks answers from the project proponents of such projects as to whether they had factored in their adverse consequences on this ecologically fragile watershed.

Studies done by Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming and University of Delhi on the impact 292 of the planned Himalayan dams have underlined that “about 1700 square kilometres of forests would be submerged or damaged by dams and related activities.” Stage managed and faulty environmental and forest clearances in Indian and China contribute to the colossal crisis that is staring us in the face.

Both in India and China, massive land use change in the watershed has made its ecosystem fragile causing increase in incidence of landslides and disastrous floods.

If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by Nature, they are called developers. This mindset is the cause of Himalayan watershed becoming disaster prone.

Gopal Krishna

The story is published at http://www.rediff.com/news/special/north-india-floods-religious-tourism-eroding-ecological-heritage/20130619.htm
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