Flash floods during this year have caused unprecedent damage to both lives and assets in Himachal Pradesh. Although climate change is expected to have played a hand in causing flash foods, human induced disaster resulting from planned development have played a significant role in causing such colossal losses.
Is climate change the only reason for the rain and floods?
The IPCC – VI report has clearly stated that Himalayas and coastal regions of India will be hardest hit by climate change. In the Himalayas, there is noticeable pattern of increased perception occurring in the short period of the time.
The IMD data shows that the normal rainfall during the period expected to be 720mm and 750mm. now it has exceeded 888mm in 2010 and 926.9mm in 2018
Should the development model be reworked?
Apart from climate change anthropogenic factors have also contributed to the disaster.
Advent of liberalization led to significant changes, with the central government demanding stringent fiscal reforms and mountain states being forced to generate their own resources for fiscal management.
What are the resources?
The exploitation of natural resources, including forests, water and cement production became the major focus for development. This led to rapid construction of hydropower projects, often causing damage to rivers and their ecosystem, widening of roads without proper geological and engineering assessment.
Expansion of cement plants altering land use pattern.
Shift in agricultural practices to cash landscape.
Is building hydropower projects wrong?
one of the main reasons for the devastating impact of floods in the region is the uncontrolled construction of hydropower projects which have transformed mountain rivers into streams.
Currently there are 168 hydropower projects in operation. Looking ahead by 2030, 1088 hydropower projects will be commissioned.
What about the Tourism:
The development driven road expansion is aimed at promoting tourism. The road widening projects often carried out by NHAI. The developmental model follows a PPP approach that emphasising the need to complete these projects rapidly. However, this has resulted in bypassing essential geological studies.
Traditionally mountain regions are not cut with vertical slits but are terraced minimising the damage to the environment.
Unfortunately, in both the Four lane projects in Manali and Shimla the mountains have been cut vertically leading to massive landslide and damage to existing roads.
How cement plants harmed the environment?
The establishment of massive cement plants and extensive cutting of mountains in district like Bilaspur, Solan, Chamba have resulted in significant land use changes contributing to flash floods.
The cement plants alter the natural landscape and removal of vegetation leads to reduced capacity of the land to absorb water.
How the crop pattern changed?
More farmers are now embracing cash crops over traditional cereal farming.
However, the shift has implications for the transportation of these crops to market. In response to this, roads are being constructing hastily without considering essential land cutting and gradient requirements.