Fury caused by torrential rains on the hills of north India have not stopped even as the four month south-west monsoon season is nearing its end in September. Pictures of devastation on Himalayan hills have been heart wrenching.
These mountains are washing off like sand, jungles are being wiped out and thick forest trees can be seen flowing like straw in the flood water. Indiscriminate landslides is changing the landscapes of these hills forever. Sturdy iron bridges could be seen carried away with the flush of heavy rains and small and big houses are coming on the ground like a peck of cards.
While climate change is being blamed for such an unprecedented rains, experts are also coming out openly putting blame on mindless and indiscriminate urban development where, “no attention has been given to the ecology and vulnerability of this sensitive eco-zone”, says Anil Sood, an activist who has put several Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in the past questioning the reckless development in the hilly areas which have, “soft hills made up of mud and belong to sensitive environment zones of India”, adds Anil sood.
Monsoon Fury in Himalayan Range
Monsoon surge coupled with western disturbance has led to one of the most severe rainfall in the region in recorded history, not only disrupting normal lives but also putting the future of residents and natives of these hills in a vulnerable spot.
The Government of Himachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has declared the state as the “Natural Calamity Affected Area” and is demanding the Central Government to declare it as a ‘Natural Calamity’.
The Himachal Government has urged the Central government to grant a special relief package of Rs 10,000 Crores for the state as the damage and devastation is “unimaginable”.
Although Himachal Pradesh is prone to natural calamities and rains, current events of unusual flash floods, cloud bursts, landslides are rare.
With 113 landslides in two months, the State Capital, Shimla has been the worst hit place. It alone has witnessed three landslides by heavy rains with around 21 deaths.
Around 330 people have lost their lives and the count of injured is unavailable. According to a rough estimate more than 12,000 houses have been damaged so far.
Uncountable loss of Natural resources and property
Landslides have contributed to more than a third of these losses. The Public Works Department (PWD) has suffered a loss of Rs 2,492 Crore from landslides and the National Highways Authority around 1000 Crores. The landslides prone areas of Himachal are Chamba, Mandi, Kangra, Kullu, Shimla, Una, Bilaspur, Sirmaur and Kinnaur.
In August 2021 also major landslides occurred in these areas mainly Mcleodganj Hill in kangra, kakroti village in Chamba and Purbani Julha in Kinnaur, some villages of Solan and Mandi district also faced major landslides.
According to the Landslide Atlas of India prepared by National Remote Sensing Centre , ISRO Hyderabad , 12 districts of the state are susceptible to the landslides.
Reasons for Natural- Calamities in Hilly State
Although El Nino impact is considered to be main and apparent cause of current rain fury, experts also blame it to be human induced.
Widespread cutting of Hills for Construction purposes, Highway projects, hydro projects, blasting works at various places is considered to have triggered the reason of such landslides “induced by current heavy rains”, they maintain. It is affecting the Ecosystem, causing soil erosion and removing vegetation, they say.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) report of 2019 says that population pressure and lack of enforcement of norms on hills are also some of the reasons of this devastation. The Report says the Shimla city was built for a population of around 25,000 but now there are houses for around 3,00,000 people.
It is estimated that around 58% of the land is subjected to intense soil erosion and the majority of it lies in Himachal region which turns the Himalayas fragile and vulnerable to such disasters.
The beautiful state of Himalayas is turning in to garbage due to such conditions. Heavy rainfall during June to September monsoon rains has not only affected the residents of Himachal Pradesh but has been impacting the lives in plains of Punjab, Chattisgarh, Uttarkhand.
Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi causing floods and devastation.
It is time government take heed and act on correcting the course to save the “ecology of hills by making a short term and long term plans”, insist these experts.