Factoring in the risk-Development of mountain areas over the years has upset the ecological balance

Source: The post is based on the article “Factoring in the risk-Development of mountain areas over the years has upset the ecological balance” published in The Hindu on 23rd August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3: Disasters and disaster management.

Relevance: To understand the impacts of development activities in hilly areas.

News: At least 25 people were killed over the weekend as torrential rains triggered flash floods and landslips in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Several arterial roads were blocked by debris, as currents washed away bridges and vehicles. This highlights the challenges associated with the development activities in hilly areas.

About the present trend of the Indian monsoon and its impacts in hilly areas

The monsoon compresses around 75% of India’s annual rainfall into four months and unevenly waters the country’s highly diverse terrain. Monsoon rain patterns are being disrupted leading to a rise in cloudburst-like events as well as a rise in the frequency of high-energy cyclones and droughts.

For instance, monsoon rainfall over India is 8% more than what is usual for this time of the year. This creates a better situation for agriculture in some regions. But it also means floods and concentrated downpours with devastating consequences. Mountain areas are far more vulnerable and bear a disproportionate impact of climate change.

Read more: Explained: What are cloudburst incidents and are they rising across India?
Why do the governments ignore the impact of development activities in hilly areas?

A recent report released by the Himachal Pradesh government highlighted that mountain areas are highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The development in those areas over the years has compounded the problem by upsetting the ecological balance of various physical processes.

The inherent risks of infrastructure development in hills and unstable terrain are often neglected by authorities in the name of balancing the demands of the people for better infrastructure and services.

What are the challenges in providing early warning forecasts in hilly areas?

The government has improved the early warning forecasts. The India Meteorological Department now provides fortnightly, weekly and even three-hourly weather forecasts to districts. Within these are integrated warnings about flash floods and lightning.

Challenges in early warning forecasts: These are a) Not always accurate, b) Not provided early enough for authorities to prepare themselves and c) The success of predicting cyclones has not been observed for floods.

What should be done to regulate development activities in hilly areas?

a) The increased risk and cost to such projects and infrastructure should be factored in when they are tendered out by the government, and b) The government must adhere to the strict scientific advice regarding development.

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