बुधवार-गुरुवार (28-29 जुलाई) की दरमियानी रात में हुई अत्यधिक बारिश ने पौड़ी जिले की थलीसैंण तहसील में स्थित चौथान पट्टी के कई गांवों को प्रभावित किया है। गनीमत है कि कोई हताहत नहीं हुआ है लेकिन गांव और सार्वजनिक सम्पति के अलावा स्थानीय फसलों को भारी नुकसान हुआ है।
जहां जिले के अंतिम हिस्से में बेतहाशा बारिश हुई, वहीं डुमणीकोट के ग्रामीणों ने ‘बादल फटने’ की घटना से मची तबाही की सूचना दी। यह गांव पौड़ी-चमोली-अल्मोड़ा जिलों की सीमा पर स्थित है।
( Feature image:- Women members of Raini village’s gram sabha, Source: Atul Sati/ Facebook/The Quint)
The July 14, 2021 order of Uttarakhand HC, dismissing the petition of those affected by the Chamoli disaster of Feb 2021 and asking that NTPC, developer of the Tapovan Vishnugad project be accountable, is most distressing. While Indian judiciary is rightly credited with doing a lot for the cause of environment and people in general, in the unequal battle of the communities and activists against injustice and negligence of giant projects and their developers, the judiciary has more often failed to ensure that the developers are held accountable and are not allowed to bulldoze ahead using their might, supported by the state, to crush attempts to achieve just and democratic results. In the Chamoli disaster, there are many many questions that remained unanswered and one expected the HC to use the petition to seek those answers. But in stead, the HC has chose to question and fine the petitioners. One hopes the higher judiciary will correct this and stay the order and in stead seek answers from the developers of the hydro projects in such fragile, disaster prone areas and those that sanctioned such projects, including the environment ministry, the state government, the CWC, the CEA, the Geological Survey of India and also the project developers.
Excessive rainfall in the intervening night July 28-29 2021 has impacted several villages in Chauthan Patti under Thailisain tehsil of Pauri district. Fortunately there has been no casualties reported however village & public infrastructure and also the crops have suffered huge damages.
While heavy downpour lashed out the large parts of the district, the villagers of Dumdikot also reported of a ‘cloud burst’ incident causing significant destruction. The village is located at the trijunction of Pauri-Chamoli-Almora districts border.
In the just concluded month of July 2021, India received 266.1 mm rainfall, that is 6.73% below normal July rainfall of 285.3 mm, as per India Meteorological Department (IMD). This is in contrast with June 2021 rainfall, that was almost 11% surplus over Normal rainfall. Not only that surplus has been wiped out by the July 2021 deficit, the overall June July 2021 rainfall now is 449 mm, or about 0.7% below normal rainfall of 452.2 mm, as per IMD.
As Maharashtra faced the worst flood disaster of SW Monsoon 2021 in India, we see the phrases like “unprecedented rainfall”, “record breaking rainfall”, “frequent landslides” etc. with increasing frequency along with phrases like climate change floating around. While these are not entirely incorrect claims, these should not be used to escape the responsibility and accountability for failing to either accurately forecast the rainfall or to manage the proportions of disasters, including operation of dams, encroachments into water bodies and water path, not accurately marking locations vulnerable to landslides in landslide prone areas or taking up inappropriate “development” projects in vulnerable areas. All of these factors can be seen at play in disasters this monsoon in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh among others.
Using such phrases, there is an attempt to escape the accountability or responsibility. This is a culture increasing being propagated by Central Water Commission as they did in Kerala in 2018 and Krishna basin floods in Maharashtra in 2019 as in numerous other occasions. It is known now to everyone that climate change is going to lead to more instances of heavy rainfall that can frequently fall in unprecedented category, but that only means we need to take measures to reduce the damage in such instances, predict them accurately and manage them effectively. That is what the Action Plans for Climate Change and Disaster Management apparatus needs to work on, but we have clearly failed there so far.
An analysis of the daily district wise rainfall data from India Meteorological Department (IMD) for the month of June 2021, the first month of India’s South West Monsoon 2021 shows that there were 442 instances when district rainfall of a day was above 50 mm, which is high considering that the normal monthly rainfall of India in this month is 166.9 mm, or daily average rainfall is about 5.6 mm. Such high rainfall instances included 371 instances when rainfall was 50-100 mm, 59 instances when it was 100-150 mm, 5 times it was 150-200 mm and 7 times above 200 mm. As noted in detailed article, the June 2021 rainfall all over India was 11% above normal.
The Europe floods this last week are unprecedented in so many respects. It has lead to close to 200 confirmed deaths so far, affected the Rhine basin areas of Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. It is the result of worst recorded rainfall in a century, leading to unprecedented water levels that rose so suddenly that otherwise super alert and smart disaster management system could not neither accurately and in time predict the catastrophe nor remove these people from the path of the destruction. The climate scientists are seeing clear signature of climate change, though more studies are called for. The call for urgent and much more action to reverse the global warming are getting louder in a continent where possibly the climate action is most advanced.
As The New York Times reported on July 19, 2021 (Monday),
The authorities ordered new evacuations on Saturday, and heavy rains in the southern German region of Bavaria caused still more flooding on Sunday.
German meteorologists called the flooding the worst in 500 years, if not a millennium. The disaster thrust the issue of climate change to the center of pivotal elections this fall.
Belguim: Street pavements burst open, houses flattened, and entire villages were destroyed in what’s being described as one of the worst flooding disasters to hit Western Europe in more than two centuries. In Liège, Belgium’s third-largest city, water from the Meuse river overflowed Thursday evening into parts of the city center, prompting city officials to call for residents to evacuate the area or seek higher ground.
Countries like India should see this as a major and yet another wake up call to start taking action to reverse the global warming emissions. Much more can and should be done urgently.
It’s rather rare when some of the most well-known environmentalists of India, including Ritwick Dutta and Manoj Misra welcome the arrival of Bhupender Yadav as India’s new Environment Minister. The state of the environment governance under the outgoing minister, Prakash Javadekar has worsened so much, both in perception and substance, that possibly any change would look better. In fact Javadekar may be front runner for the label of India’s worst ever environment minister according to some analysts.
The environment appraisals, the constitution of committees including the various Expert Appraisal Committees, the Forest Advisory Committee and the Standing committee of National Board of Wildlife, the public hearings and consultation processes, the state of pollution and rivers, biodiversity, wetlands, floodplains, sand mining, to name just a few areas, were all seen going downhill on a steep slope during the Javadeker period. The monitoring and compliance remained non existent. Some would argue that was it much different before Javadekar. The point is Javadekar had no pretentions of trying to improve the environment governance. He was out to dilute every available norm and he seemed to have succeded significantly.
Even if Yadav were to genuinely wish to improve matters, how much will he be allowed to do, by the perceived imperatives of the economic fundamentalist agenda, the well-entrenched vested interests and the bureaucracy is a question that only time will tell, but there is little doubt that a lot can and needs to be done rather urgently and none of these perceived obstacles should come in the way if there is will. The climate change is making the improvement in environmental governance rather urgent.
In the last week, the Supreme Court of India used rather strong words against Union Ministry of Environment and Forests under the leadership of Prakash Javdekar. It said: “You must show it is a ministry for environment and not just ‘of environment’. You (ministry) have been constantly diluting the environmental standards. That’s all that has been happening”. While this was necessary and in fact it should have come several years earlier, one hopes the SC does not stop at using just strong words, but ensures that the MoEF is held accountable for its numerous unpardonable anti environment acts.
In another notable event, the Supreme Court also pulled up the NGT for not understanding even basic conflict of interest: “We are surprised by this order of the NGT. It is the OIL Ltd. which is responsible for the damage to the wetlands and its own Managing Director has been inducted into the committee? … We are very dissatisfied with the manner the NGT has pushed the matter off its hands. It is the National Green Tribunal, it must have some alacrity and concern for the environment. And after the report of the first committee, three committees have been set up separately! What is this?” This again is welcome and was long overdue. NGT had shown similar lack of understanding of conflict of interest in the Lower Subansiri case which also SC needs to open up for review. Conflict of Interest is a MAJOR dark spot in functioning of India’s governance and SC needs to do lot more to correct this.
In the just concluded June 2021, the first month of India’s South West 2021 monsoon, India received 182.9 mm rainfall, 10.96% or about 11% more than the normal June rainfall of 166.9 mm as per India Meteorological department. In June 2020, the rainfall was 196.9 mm, or about 18% above normal and in June 2019 it was 33% below normal.