EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Molding the Himalayas needs caution – PuuchoIAS


 

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Parliament-Structure, organization and functioning, Disaster Management, Himalayas, GSI, UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, World bank, 74th amendment etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Parliament- structure, functioning and conduct of Business etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The hurdles in delaying the rescue of 41 labourers, who have been trapped inside the trapped Silkyara tunnel.
  • The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is building the tunnel

 

Puucho ON THE ISSUE

Context

Char Dham road project:

  • It is an ambitious attempt to widen nearly 900 kilometres of hill roads
  • The project will be executed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH)
  • Aim: To provide all-weather connectivity to the four major shrine:
    • Yamunotri
    • Gangotri
    • Kedarnath
  • It will increase pilgrimage tourism from the Indian plains
  • It will provide attendant local economic dividends.

 

Challenges:

  • Rampant construction and its complex interaction with climate change: It has led to massive landslides and floods in the fragile Himalayan range

Issues:

  • The processes in which environment clearances were sought, undermining safety protocols
  • A new form of architecture built to construct and monitor infrastructure projects, if at all they are desired, in the region.
  • The flash floods of 2013 in Uttarakhand are suggested as the reason for the construction of the Char Dham Yatra.
  • The Himalayas are the youngest range of mountains and are still in the formative stages.
    • Geological and geotechnical studies: This is a dangerous project and fatality-induced.
  • This area is extremely sensitive to earthquakes and frictional shear rocks are present as well.
    • Constructing in this zone is dangerous.
  • The construction and projects in the region has led to a situation where even the basics of mountain construction codes have been set aside.
  • The Environment Impact Assessment has not been taken seriously.
    • For example: The Char Dham Project, which is around 900 kilometres long and should have a single EIA.
    • The project was broken into 53 sections so that the EIA is prepared for a lesser region.
    • The impact exhibited would also be lesser than for a large ecosystem of 900 kilometres.

Way Forward

  • The Supreme Court of India has already seized on the matter on the issue of carrying capacity in the Himalayas.
    • The apex court should push for a dialogue on it.
  • The carrying capacity cannot just be limited to the number of people an ecosystem can sustain.
    • It also has to take into cognisance the total carrying capacity of the IHR from the infrastructure aspect.
  • The IHR is in a transformative phase and the impetus for this transformation unfortunately comes from the new geographies.
  • There are spatial and temporal changes that go beyond the scope and spaces of the Himalayan aesthetic, culture, and building typologies.
  • Sheer integration with the rest is not the way of sustaining them
    • This would plunder the region.

■      Safety protocols: The construction of the Atal tunnel in the Kullu, and Lahaul & Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh.

○      The executing company was so particular in implementing safety measures that not a single casualty has been reported in its construction.

○      They did not allow the workers to enter the tunnel unless all the protocols were followed and checked.

  • International protocols and monitoring processes for tunnelling that are efficient should be adopted.
  • A new legislative architecture that allows people to monitor these projects and ensures that geological experts are part of every move is required.
  • The local communities who have lived in the mountains should be an essential part of these monitoring structures with strict protocols.
  • Civil society groups and community-driven organisations should be made part of the monitoring exercise.
  • The NHAI must realise that they are making roads on soil and mountains and not on drawing boards in their offices.
    • The BRO and even the PMGSY have a better protocol of construction, where a certain period is allowed for stability.
  • The overemphasis on meeting targets without stability and safety standards is further accentuating the disaster proneness.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

To what extent, in your opinion, has the decentralization of power in India changed the governance landscape at the grassroots?(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

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