Crisis in the Himalayas

Source: The post is based on the article “Crisis in the Himalayas” published in the Business Standard on 18th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Disaster and disaster management.

Relevance: About protecting the Himalayan Ecosystem.

News: The Himalayan town Joshimath is under tremendous stress, and a portion of it has started sinking. The real issue has always been about pursuing development without working on environmental sustainability.

About Joshimath
Read here: Who Tunnels Through A Sinking Town?
What are the other major disasters that happened in the Himalayan Ecosystem?
Read here: Reckless spree – Authorities must heed science and people living near mines, dams
What are the challenges faced by Hilly areas?
Read more: A mountain reeling under human aggression

-Environmental impact assessment of a particular project does not capture the cumulative impact of a series of such projects in a river basin.

-In recent years, the twin demands of both religion and defence have been added to the development argument. This kept aside environmental and terrain considerations.

What should be done to protect the Himalayan ecosystem?

In the Himalayan zone, hydro projects should generally be of the run-of-the-river variety since large-scale water storage reservoirs can greatly disturb a terrain that is seismically unstable and still shifting.

Respecting religious sentiments should not mean constructing six-lane highways to sacred pilgrim spots deep in the Himalayas. Similarly, for defence, improved access in the short term should not come at the cost of seriously disrupted communications in the longer term due to disasters.

There is an urgent need to undertake a detailed survey by multidisciplinary expert teams. This is to understand the nature and scale of the challenge with the Himalayan ecosystem. The government must both halt and then reverse the disturbing trends that are intensifying day by day.


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