July 17, 2013

Uttarakhand Floods and Climate Change: With Bigger Calamities Looming and Lessons Still Unlearned, How Many More Must Die Before We Abandon the Illusion of Development?

Uttarakhand floods induced by man made climate change should be viewed as stark warning that the 20th century dream of "development" — raising our standard of living by converting nature into buildings, roads, and stuff-to-consume-and-discard — is about to come crashing down. As our policy makers and media remain determined to ignore climate lessons, calamities unimagined are in store.

The unprecedented Uttarakhand floods of June 2013 that took lives of over 10,000 by some estimates seem to have shaken the foundations of the state legislative assembly. Literally. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna is to decide whether to demolish the assembly building constructed along riverbed in Dehradun after a July 4 High Court verdict ordered the government to cancel allotment of all structures along riverbeds within a week and remove them within two months.

There cannot be a greater symbolic blow to the authority of political establishment of the state, a class that has defended its need to put "development" above ecology and the safety of its citizens. It is a physical blow too as members of the political class themselves own illegal structures now ordered to be demolished.

Yet, there's no evidence that the state or central government has learnt the big lessons. Now that we have seen what climate change can do today, the debate at national level must move beyond disaster preparedness, disaster management, environmental policy and also address more urgent issues of the threat from climate change of tomorrow and its implications for the developmental model of the country.

As big as this tragedy appears, there's a real danger that we will not grasp the true implications of the events that unfolded last month until it is too late. In this series, I examine its link with climate change and events unfolding around the world, highlight what I think we need to learn from the floods and pose some tough questions.

This is a multi-part series of posts with the following parts published so far:

Nothing Natural About This Disaster (Uttarakhand Floods and Climate Change)

Coming Next: Mega-Disasters of Tomorrow

Update 11-Feb 2015: Struck down references to upcoming posts on climate impacts.

2 Comments so far      

Blogger Nyla:

Looking forward to the next article in this series.
Nyla Coelho

22 July 2013 at 08:47:00 GMT+5:30 link  
Blogger Manu Sharma:

Thank you Nyla. Next in series has now been published: Nothing Natural About This Disaster

24 July 2013 at 10:32:00 GMT+5:30 link  

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