In 2023, the Himalayan region has borne witness to an onslaught of disasters, from the sinking of Joshimath in Uttarakhand to floods and landslides in Himachal Pradesh, a glacial lake outburst in Sikkim, and the recent tunnel collapse near Barkot in Uttarakhand. While these events may seem disparate, they actually form a connected narrative revealing the repercussions of haphazard development in the region, particularly in Uttarakhand. The prevailing development model of the Himalaya, spanning from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, poses a significant threat to the ecosystem of the mountains.
The Himalayan ecosystem is one of the most fragile in the world, sensitive to the slightest changes in its identity. The alterations, better described as an “invasion” by the forces of development, often devised in urban boardrooms, do not take into account how anthropogenic activities, combined with climate change, are rendering the already fragile ecology more vulnerable, prone to disasters.
Dismissing a Himalayan disaster, such as a cloudburst or a flash flood, as merely a natural occurrence overlooks the fact that the increased frequency and intensity of these climate events are due to the overall development paradigm chosen for the planet, specifically for the Himalayan region. The geology of most of the Himalaya is unstable and dynamic, and the mindless greed and aggression of planners, policymakers, and government agencies are costing us the Himalaya itself.
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