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Mainstream, VOL LX No 29, New Delhi, July 9, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 9 2022

Friday 8 July 2022


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 9, 2022

Flash-floods in China, Germany, Brazil, and South Africa in 2021/2022 at the same time record-high temperatures in Canada and parts of the US faced made world news. Climate change is not some abstract thing it is very real and yet the power elites seem not to see the elephant in the room and seriously plan for it. Global warming is making the world hotter and creating extreme weather events. What will it take to make climate change and environmentally sensitive planning enter every aspect and every sector of government and state policy? Where does one begin, there are problems from rising temperatures, extreme pollution in air, water, growing floods and cyclones, and depleting green cover, to curtail and phase out polluting fossil-fuel energy systems but poor regulation and rigorous norms over these seem to prevail. This year in summer we saw in India’s national capital temperatures touch 47 degrees Celsius. According to data from the Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), heat strokes have now become the second leading cause of death in India, but who is bothered. The authorities at all levels seemingly remain unconcerned, ill-prepared, and ill-equipped. In 2019 National Disaster Management Authority drew Guidelines for Preparation of Action Plan for Prevention and Management of Heat Wave, all we can say is that this remained on paper and implementation never took off. Intense rains and flooding are not new to India, we have had them as part of our environmental cycle. Over the past decades, some 199 districts in India have been marked as the most disaster-prone. On top of this is the growing intensity of freak weather events that cause immense suffering and damage. These unusual weather events are becoming increasingly normal. The response to these is not geared at having a climate-sensitive national and local economic and environmental policy we basically have a crisis management and disaster response policy. We have a national disaster management authority that is supposed to handle all crises natural or man-made. What is desperately required on vast scale but missing is training and preparedness and development of infrastructure and with inbuilt training processes for workers and plans to design environmentally sensitive development planning in multi-domains such as efficient drainage systems, waste management etc. But the total lack of preparedness of our authorities in pre-emptive measures is amazing. Everything is ad-hoc it seems, and the general attitude is we will deal with it when the crisis comes and launch a search and rescue and relief operation As soon as rains come in India every year we see waterlogging in cities, mudslides in the countryside, and flooding triggered by torrential rains … deadly floods; Devastating floods in Assam recently affected close to 2 million people and inundated thousands of hectares of cropland. The very important city of Silchar in Assam was nearly submerged. As usual, the union government will certainly announce relief and compensation. Simultaneous crises have struck the country in the past weeks. Here is a partial list: The multi-million dollar prestigious Pragati Maidan Integrated Transit Corridor Project with underground tunnels and underpasses in the national capital was inaugurated on June 19 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then at the end of the month when the first monsoon rain came in Delhi the tunnels were in part flooded. Heavy rains have hit cities in Gujarat and Maharashtra, the Amarnath pilgrimage has been halted since July 5 due to heavy rains in Pahalgam in Kashmir, 13 people are feared ead and over 40 missing; Parts of the Kashmir valley have been affected by the Srinagar-Sonamarg-Gumri road getting blocked due to a landslide. Flash floods in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu and parts of Shimla were caused by a cloud burst that struck in the middle of the week. There was a major tragedy in Manipur in which a landslide caused close to 50 dead. Some of these crises could have been prevented and are preventable in the future if we begin to give environmental issues the real importance they deserve and not treat them as a sideshow requiring some lip service. India continues to make high-sounding claims in International fora while in the same breath moving to dilute environmental protections. On June 28, Union minister of state for earth sciences Jitendra Singh conveyed to the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon that India is committed to protecting, at least, 30% of the land, water, and oceans [1] But, news on June 30, pointed at Union environment ministry considering plans to let of violators by decriminalising violations of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

July 9, 2022 - HK

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