Sunday, June 30, 2013

Man Made Disaster- Result of Greedy Civils and Napping Government - Wake Up Time

Uttarakhand Rain Disaster as I have already written is the Man Made Disaster caused by the Greed of the Civilians and the Lack of Proactive Approach by the Government Machinery. Sounds harsh and if someone thinks that I am criticizing the government too much, then please read on the following bullets - 

  • To develop the tourism industry (Greed for Money) the Government didn't check the development in and around the Alaknanda in Kedar Valley.  Too much of Development in that area including the Water Catchment was an invite to such destruction!! 
  • The reports from the various authorities that had clearly marked the development area where the government should have let development happen (around the Kedar Helipad) was ignored and the development covered the River Banks, the disaster was invited!!
  • Approximately or as reported 400 odd sthey mall or medium sized dams either under construction or fully constructed on Alaknanda, Bhaghirathi and Mandakini were washed out completely and the water accumulated by these dams rushed with the already overflowing river water.  Another invitation to the disaster by not following the warnings and still going ahead with building the dams. The dams as is were not meeting the seismic requirements either, they would have cause another catastrophe if not rains, earthquake would have hit!!
  • Another big time invitation to calamity is the Tehri Dam that survived this time, but is not constructed to last higher intensity Earthquakes, common in that region due to the collision of the tectonic plates.  Also the Dam is tipped to age only 61 years, so say in another few years owing to the earthquakes and incessant rains it could make way for yet another disaster that would impact even Haridwar and Dehradoon!! Invitation is already despatched!!
  • MET department had sent a Warning Notes to the State Government Officials as well as the Indian Meteorological Department at Center, but the warning notes were clearly found to be "IGNORED" with the officials making a statement as "these are regular notes and the intensity of the rains were not mentioned" (Ref: Put off yatra, evacuate pilgrims, Met said, but govt sat on warning) My question here is - What do they mean by intensity of rains? Do they want MET department to go ahead and forecast the amount of rain? When the MET departments "Warning Note" read it clearly to keep the tourists off the Char Dham area and to evacuate the locals, then what else is required? Inactive and Napping Government Functionary invited the Disaster!!  As is acting on Intel received from other departments seems to be hurting the ego of Officials, we have seen the intel failure in other cases including the Mumbai Attack, Parliament Attack, Godhra Carnage etc. 
Ain't it Tragic that the Civil Administrative Bodies and the Current as well as Previous State Governments have done nothing to control the pace and width of the Development.  Additionally they SLEPT on the Warning Note by MET.  If they would have acted in time, the overall impact would have been contained to majorly the damaged infrastructure and not the extensive loss of human life.  If the Government machinery would have acted Proactively, the cost of evacuation would have been far less than the rescue operations....But would they learn?  Nopes they would not!!! 

What needs to be done with immediate effect?  Seems to be a pretty good question and would be debated by the Political Parties and the various corridors for long, but nothing concrete would come out. Why, because they would be more busy in luring their vote banks (e.g Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi - Both Played politics on the disaster Ref: #whereispappu and 15K Gujarati pilgrims rescued? Tales of survivors magnify the absurd claim). 

However, the things that need to be done to ensure that the disaster of similar nature do not strike again are - 
  1. Control the Rapid Development in the Uttarakhand by ensuring the Eco Sensitive Zones do not see any concrete Jungle.  All the Tourist Rest Stops, Motels, Hotels need to be built in safe and secure locations and must be meeting the Seismic requirements too
  2. Cordon off the Kedar Valley for any permanent Construction for now and for ever.  The River Alaknanda though flows from the other side of the temple, decades ago its main course was not that and this time, it came back to its old course.  We should have learned that from the Bihar Floods few years back when River Kosi had changed its course to original one from what it had acquired over the period of time.  The point here is, leave the River Banks Clear of any permanent structure and banned for human habitat.
  3. Develop a Disaster Management System for the State that would ensure that the teams are ready to move proactively to undertake evacuation operations and when required reactively to undertake rescue operations.
  4. Train the Government officials for ensuring that they react to the MET warnings and ensure that proactive steps are taken to save human life
  5. Seek Volunteers from the Citizen Bodies to ensure that they are trained to coorperate and lead the fellow citizens during the situation of disaster. These volunteers should also be trained in the evacuation as well as rescue operations.  These volunteers can then ensure that they educate the youth in their neighbor. This would help mass reach of the Disaster Management Program and when the actual Disaster would strike, people would be more ready as well as more equipped to cope with them.  They would certainly listen to the authorities and evacuate in time.
The above are few basic steps to be taken for Disaster Avoidance and Preparedness.  Infact not just Uttarakhand, but other states also are supposed to take these steps to ensure that they can proactively take steps to reduce the collateral damage.  

Another thing that I would suggest to the Uttarakhand Government is to change the erring Officials and also step down from the Office by handing over the reins of rehabilitation to the Central Government. The State Government has majorly failed even in launching the rescue operations.  Without the Army, ITBP, IAF and Marcos, the rescue operations would not have been as much success as they are said to be.  The reason I am suggesting them to step down is, they had been making tall claims about rescue and trying to gain political mileage, they would do the same for rehabilitation steps too.  Better that the Center Manages the Rehabilitation with help of Border Roads, Army and other Para Military Organizations rather than Private Parties.  This way we would see quality outcome and less politics. And yeah the Work would also happen in defined timelines withing identified Cost.
As I am writing this, the news of Floods in Assam are already pouring in, but many would say, that is an annual ritual and the people there are used to the floods. But then the Assam Government also need proactive steps to evacuate people living in the Danger Zones....And save the Human Life..

Update: Article on TOI referring MET Note to Chief Secretary and others referred 

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