The recent events in Joshimath have revived the debate around development in ecologically fragile areas. The problem, however, is not confined to Uttarakhand alone.
Several States have seen a marked increase in the occurrence of landslides and land erosion in the past decade. While there has certainly been a rise in outlier climate events, especially intense rainfall as seen in Maharashtra and Kerala in recent years, their effect on populations has been outsized mainly because of human folly in the form of deforestation, massive growth in traffic, unsustainable rise in permanent settlements, and a significant rise in buildings, both unauthorised and otherwise.
The past two decades have seen several occurrences outside the Himalayan belt that made headlines for their severity and deadly aftermath. They include the Amboori landslide in Kerala in 2001, the Mumbai event in 2000 and the 2014 landslide in Malin, both in Maharashtra, and the earthquake in the Sikkim Himalaya in 2011 that triggered some 421 landslides.
Besides these, minor landslides and slips have been occurring on a routine basis and with increasing frequency in States ranging from Sikkim in the north-eastern region, to parts of West Bengal in the east, and to Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south, where the Western Ghats are located.
Given that the phenomenon of landslides dates back to more than a century in many parts of the country and given the number of warnings, what makes the situation particularly worrying is the blatant disregard for safety in the pursuit of development.