Man has been rapacious in exploiting the ecological wonder of the Himalayas with tourism.
More than 200 people have died and scores are missing in the 2023 monsoon season which began on June 24 in the ecologically fragile states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. But that is only the tip of the human tragedy as thousands are living in fear of landslides and flash floods affecting their lives and their dwellings. Thousands of buildings have developed cracks and hundreds have become uninhabitable, if not destroyed.
There has been no let-off as the rain comes in successive waves with more than a month to go before the southwest monsoon peters out. The Prime Minister called for an emergency meeting for relief measures to Himachal even as disaster rescue teams have been working tirelessly and aid is being sent to relief centres where vulnerable people have taken shelter.
The severity of the problem has everyone glued to the situation, but the moment it eases life will be back to normal and activities that have contributed to the state of despair in the hills and slopes like road building with extensive tunnelling, mining of both legal and illegal varieties and building construction to prop up tourism that rises by the year will resume.
Deforestation will probably resume full scale without a thought to its deleterious effects on ecology as highways and hydro-power plants come up. Man has been rapacious in exploiting the ecological wonder of the Himalayas with tourism thought to be the key to livelihoods and prosperity of the permanent residents.
Not enough is being done by way of adopting scientific methods of construction to international standards or of trying to prevent landslides that rose at least six-fold in 2022 while the current year’s count is showing an upward trajectory. The surge in landslides is directly owed to extensive hill slope cutting for construction and road widening, tunnel blasting and hydel projects, according to conservationists.
The hills may be hit by forest fires in the dry parts of the summer and by landslides and floods in the monsoon that sees increased cloudbursts as evidence of climate change caused by global warming. But tourists seem to enjoy being in the hills much as they continue to revel.
Attention to geological care may be the last thing on people’s minds as the hills will get ready soon to cater to the next wave of tourists once the roadblocks are tended to. This is the crux of the problem, the solution to which will continue to escape us. That is the real tragedy of the Himalayas.