Uttarakhand Disaster: Can the Nation learn any lessons?

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Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013 has thrown up a lot of questions. On vulnerabilities of different regions. On Environmental Governance and how it takes or does not take into account vulnerabilities. How the interventions in the name of development impact the disaster potential of a given area. What role disaster preparedness, warning, forecasting, information dissemination, mitigation and management should and does play in our decision making processes. Do we even have credible disaster management mechanism in place? How does our environment impact assessments, environment appraisal committees and environment ministry consider these issues? Do we have credible cumulative impact assessment, carrying capacity studies at river basin level in a place like Uttarakhand where the state aspires to be Urja Pradesh, egged on by the centre and hydro-power lobby? What space rivers need to flow and what we need to ensure that the beauty (the river) does not become beast (disaster)? What sort of accountability and participatory norms we have? Does our environmental governance institutes have capacity learn from such events? What is our track record in this regard?

These are some of the many questions that arise from the horrific Uttarakhand disaster. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People is one of the many organisations that is active on environmental governance in general on rivers in particular, including in Uttarakhand. Environment Support Group Trust (ESG) is organizing a public talk at Ashirwad, St. Mark’s Road, Bangalore on Thursday, the 22nd of August 2013.

Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP would be visiting Bangalore and has agreed to meet participants and discuss these issues. Himanshu Thakkar, educated as an engineer from Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai), is currently coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP) and editor of magazine “Dams, Rivers & People”. SANDRP is an informal network of organizations and individuals working on issues related with water sector with special focus on issues associated with large dams, mostly in India, but including South Asia regional issues. He has been formerly associated with the work of the World Commission on Dams, Centre for Science and Environment and Save Narmada Movement. Mr. Thakkar believes that trans boundary water issues in South Asia and Central Asia can have lessons for each other, since climate change will affect them all.

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