Long Term Rehabilitation Work in Disaster Hit Area of Rudraprayag Districts of Uttarakhand (INDIA)
- Background Information and Justification:
Due to its geographical location and the influence of monsoons, Uttarakhand is extremely vulnerable to a wide range of natural disasters, including floods and landslides. The unprecedented rain-flood tragedy that hit Uttarakhand a month ago has taught the whole Nation the need of better understanding and management of such natural calamities. Such calamitous events present a threat to the country’s development strategies by destroying infrastructure and interrupting economic activity. Uttarakhand is facing such calamities with increasing frequency each year.
While the occurrence of the hazardous events cannot be prevented, the magnitude of their impacts in terms of loss of life and destruction of property can be kept within reasonable limits through effective disaster management. The following statistical data gives us a clearer and saddening picture:
Disaster management is widely seen as embracing four elements: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. But the recent rain-flood tragedy in Uttarakhand clearly shows us that only embracing the above four elements might not be successful. This brings us to the “fifth element” of Disaster Management that is “awareness and knowledge”. Before going into detail what the fifth element is all about let’s quickly look at some major reasons of the recent Uttarakhand Disaster apart from heavy rainfall and flood:
- Expansion of hydro projects: Uttarakhand gets high intensity rainfall and is prone to landslides. It also falls in zone 4-5 of high seismic activity. Against this backdrop, large hydroelectric projects increase the risk of disaster manifold as they involve the construction of dams, long tunnels, and roads, all of which require the blasting of hills. These blasting are making the mountains weak. Over 505 dams, part of 244 hydroelectric projects, have been proposed or are being built on the Ganga and its tributaries — Mandakini, Bhagirathi and Alaknanda — in Uttarakhand. A further 45 are already running. The Char Dham area (the pilgrimage circuit of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri), that’s the most affected by the recent floods and landslides alone has around 70 dams.
- Expansion of roads: Data with the Uttarakhand State Transport Department confirms this. In 2005-06, 83,000-odd vehicles were registered in the state. The figure rose to nearly 180,000 in 2012-13. Out of this, proportion of cars, jeeps and taxis, which are the most preferred means of transport for tourists landing in the state, increased the most. In 2005-06, 4,000 such vehicles were registered, which jumped to 40,000 in 2012-13. It is an established fact that there is a straight co-relation between tourism increase and higher incidence of landslides.
- Sewage: Untreated sewage flowing into the river is another problem. It pollutes the river, causing the riverbed to rise, leading to floods upstream and flash floods downstream.
- Increase in tourism: The rapid increase in tourism, especially between April and November, is another cause for alarm. The construction of lodges and other tourism infrastructure is completely unregulated and not in tune with the surroundings. During this recent disaster many of these lodges and other buildings were heavily damaged or washed away.
Therefore we can say that nature alone can’t be blamed for this unfortunate turn of events. Man has played an equal, if not greater, role in this disaster.
Role of “Awareness and knowledge in Managing Disaster”:
Development is important and more so for the mountain people as it will help reduce migration from mountains to plains. But it is imperative to reflect what kind of development do we want? Development that leads to ecological imbalance and disaster or development that is in tune with nature.
Well, observing the recent scenario we have no choice but to move towards a development that is in balance with the ecology and that which is sustainable. But this understanding will only come through proper knowledge and awareness being created at every level: be it an individual, community or the whole STATE.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS OF TARGET AREA:
“Subsistence” Agriculture is the prime occupation of target area. It is referred to as subsistence since agriculture is largely rain fed with cultivation and harvesting of crops depending on monsoon. Small to marginal agricultural fields, difficult hilly terrain, absence of modern agro-techniques and low soil fertility has further contributed to low productivity. Thus the produce is barely sufficient for the farmer’s domestic consumption and hardly any produce is justify which may add to his income. In 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10, rainfall has been insufficient throughout the year. Leave aside requirement of water for irrigation, it lead to shortage of even drinking water adding to the miseries of farmers and further weakening the rural economics.
Livestock rearing has come up as an important source of subsidiary income to small/marginal farmers and agricultural labourers. Majority of livestock enterprises consist of rearing mulching animals, sheep and goat. In the recent past Uttarakhand has become the pilgrimage destination providing the necessary boost to Mule / pony rearing as the primary source of livelihood for many people especially in the Char Dham Yatra districts for transporting pilgrims / tourists from road head to pilgrimage destinations.
However, pilgrimage based economy (shop keeping, mule rearing, trekking services, ecotourism, hotel and hospitality) on Gangotri Route has received an irreversible set back in June 2013 when the fury of nature struck the state in the form of cloud bursts and landslides. Apart from huge human casualties, the disaster has ruined lots of livestock owners. They have lost their business / animals thus rendering them helpless and bankrupt with no means of livelihood. Outstanding bank credits have even made their condition pathetic. The disaster will also have its adverse chronic effects on this part of the state which was already gasping to catch up with the developmental pace in other parts. The disaster has pushed the area ten years back leaving the area in distress and devoid of basic amenities.
The area also lags behind in terms of proper education system. The students remain unaware of professional courses due to lack of information and proper schooling system. The dropout rate between 10th to 12th standard has increased in the recent years as they have to contribute in earning bread and butter for the family making it difficult for them to pursue formal education.
CURRENT SCENARIO AND DESCRIPTION OF THE ISSUES:
The problems above and challenges discussed have become more acute after the recent natural disaster in the area. The major calamities were:
- Religious Tourism based economy (shop keeping, mule rearing, trekking services, ecotourism, hotel and hospitality) on Gangotri Route has received an irreversible set back in June 2013 when the fury of nature struck the area in the form of cloud bursts and landslides. Apart from huge human casualties, the disaster has ruined their business / animals and thus rendering them helpless and bankrupt with no means of livelihood.
- The people of this area have witnessed the chaos and has undergone extreme mental trauma and many of them may suffer from post traumatic psychological disorders.
- The disaster will also have its long term adverse effects on this part of the state which was already gasping to catch up with the developmental pace. The disaster has pushed the area ten years back leaving the area in distress and devoid of basic amenities and needs urgent assistance for recovering from various socio-economic issues.