BANGALORE: Had the central government been cautious enough, the Uttarakhand disaster could have been avoided, as the country was equipped with Doppler radar which can sense the cloud burst, said HimanshuThakkar, an IITian, and coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).
The environmentalist visited Bangalore recently and spoke at a public talk organized by Environment Support Group on “Uttarakhand Disaster: Can the nation learn any lesson?”.
“The national disaster management authority failed in mitigating the flood situation as it didn’t properly coordinate with the Indian meteorological department and the Uttarakhand state government. A chief officer in IMD told me during the disaster days that the Doppler radar which government of India procured in 2008. For accurate weather forecasting and predicting cloud burst in vulnerable hill stations, the IMD should have used the advanced technologies available with the government,” said Thakkar.
Speaking about the failure of several government agencies set up to save rivers and work on climate change, Thakkar said that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who heads the National River Conservation Authority had not called for a single meeting in the last nine years of his tenure as PM. “What has the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate change done so far? How come none of these agencies set up the union government anticipate the situation at Uttarakhand?” questioned Thakkar.
“Till today we don’t know how much it rained exactly during the floods. At Rudraprayag, IMD has only one rain gauging station. A place surrounded by glaciers does not have a scientific way to measure rainfall. Till today, we don’t know how much of rainfall occurred at what place from June 15 to June 20, when the disaster occurred,” said Thakkar.
“British managed it well”
This was not the first floods in Uttarakhand, and it had happened during British Raj period too, but they handled it extremely well, said Thakkar. “It was in 1893, when floods hit the same region, near Berai Ganga river. Only one person who had gone to the river bank accidentally passed away and there was no other death. The British gad set up one of the first telegraph office there for the purpose of communication and avoided public movement there. But now, in the recent disaster we have lost 10,000-40,000 people whose bodies are stuck in debris, silt and washed away in floods,” said Thakkar.
Commenting about the government ruling that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report not required for a hydropower generation project below 25 mega watt, Thakkar said that it was a ridiculous thought. “We must have EIA, for every power project of capacity one mega watt. The views of native public of the region must taken while starting any project. Construction on river bed must be stopped,” said Thakkar.