Combatting the Climate Menace
With the number of earthquakes in the country increasing due to movement of the Indian tectonic plate, it is time to undertake serious precautionary measures on a war-footing to prevent possible catastrophic occurrences. According to scientists, the Himalayan region is highly vulnerable to earthquakes and requires special measures to protect its ecology. In this context, the recent decision to destroy thousands of buildings and settlements in Joshimath must be appreciated as such steps will help to prevent the ongoing subsidence in the region. Similar steps should be taken in other Himalayan cities and towns as they too are facing the dual challenge of increasing population and destruction of ecology for development projects. To manage the inflow of people, the government should perhaps limit the number of pilgrims at a time to various religious temples and caves. At the same time, the government should adopt a zero-tolerance approach towards the destruction of nature. On its part, the government should reconsider developmental projects which involve changing the course of rivers and springs or cutting of trees.
Such steps are necessary as more than a half of the Indian population depends on the Himalayan range for their livelihood. For instance, the fertile plains of northern India and the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin will turn into barren land if the Himalayan region is not protected from further ecological damage. Emphasis must be placed on sustainable development, rather than haphazard progress. Natural calamities can only be countered through preparation and planning. Thus, earthquake management in the region should include a ban on unplanned and unnecessary construction, and construction of earthquake proof houses must be mandated. The impact of various infrastructural projects such as hydel power tunnels on the ecosystem must be monitored. These measures are critical to saving lives and property. We have already witnessed increased number of earthquakes and flash floods in between January to November the previous year. Mild to major quakes are anticipated to take place in the Himalayan region in 2024 too and precautionary measures must be undertaken in preparation for such. For centuries, we have caused grievous damage to the environment on the pretext of development. Now, the time has come to amend our ways. Not only the region but the entire country must adopt an aggressive approach to deal with the climate menace.