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  Opinion   Edit  10 Jul 2023  AA Edit | India looks helpless in face of monsoon fury

AA Edit | India looks helpless in face of monsoon fury

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jul 11, 2023, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Jul 11, 2023, 12:10 am IST

India has gone too far down the road to placing stress recklessly on the environment, particularly in hilly terrain.

Swollen Beas river during incessant monsoon rainfall, in Kullu district, Monday, July 10, 2023. (PTI Photo)
 Swollen Beas river during incessant monsoon rainfall, in Kullu district, Monday, July 10, 2023. (PTI Photo)

As torrential downpour pummelled north India thanks to a western disturbance combining with monsoon winds to create river overflows and the double whammy of rain and flash floods, it not only inconvenienced people but also put the fear of Nature into them. Shops, houses, bridges, and parts of highways were carried away by the swirling waters even as floating logs proved deadly battering rams in the ecologically sensitive upper reaches of the Himalayas.

The monsoon is invariably the focus of news before it sets in and later meteorologists are the busiest in keeping track and the record books. But this time, as it played truant in June, it had sent shivers down the economic spine. And when it hit in July, it struck with a vengeance.

‘’Beware of climate change” is about the only warning that the Met office does not put out annually. But that is the key to the present as well as the future because global warming-induced climate change is what makes the monsoon stronger, more intense in certain places, as in dumping rain in one day that is closer to a wet month average, while being unpredictably erratic in its behaviour.

It is in the face of this heightened monsoon that our national infrastructure crumbles even as a growing population and rising numbers of mechanised vehicles that they love to use to commute puts greater pressure on mother earth. Loss of lives invariably follows as little attention is paid to safety in putting up dwellings in the cavalier Indian style where rules and regulations are meant to be in the statute books and not supposed to be binding on those who build.

The fury of nature can never be more frightening than to people who must live in the hills. These sensitive places are not meant to take the crush of people and their infrastructure. The advice of the CM of the worst hit State worst hit thus far — Himachal Pradesh — almost makes sense in asking people to stay indoors while nature spends her fury. Providing such advice is not aimed at people who live in dangerously perched buildings on slopes and by riverbanks and who must be evacuated lest they become victims as gushing waters swallow buildings to show up how poor our civil engineering is.

The scars that each monsoon leaves will be bigger because there is such a compromise on safety of the people that a disregard for risk factors is a peculiar outcome of Indian brand of fatalism. As always, the poor and the most vulnerable sections of the population will suffer disproportionately while governments hold meetings on emergency measures to get over the short-term problems of nature’s fury like waterlogging, which is urban India’s worst nightmare.

Amid the suffering of the people, what stands out is the bravery of those who must venture out to help, like the members of our national and state disaster response teams. While television stations seem to revel in attracting disaster voyeurism in the images they display repeatedly of houses, cars and roads disappearing in the face of freshwater floods, it is the rescue personnel who risk their lives in extending a helping hand. And yet scores of people die each year because they can’t protect themselves.

The stark reality is urban agglomerations may adapt to survive with minimum loss of life, but the hills may prove dangerous spaces for people because of flash floods. India has gone too far down the road to placing stress recklessly on the environment, particularly in hilly terrain where land use laws are hardly followed, and with the quirks caused by climate change, the suffering will only expand.

Tags: aa edit, flash floods, himachal floods