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From relief to rehabilitation

With thousands affected by the disaster in Uttarakhand, it is now time to add rehabilitation to relief in the state. Rescue operations are nearing completion and  the government must provide basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, medicine, to the victims but also restoration of basic services to enable the population to return to normal. The authorities have to ensure regular supply of essential commodities, establish communication links with all inaccessible villages and rehabilitate affected people. It is time to help people return to normal lives. Besides, the government must not fail to learn lessons from the natural calamity that has nearly destroyed its fragile ecology and harmed the people. Though natural calamities have been taking place in Uttarakhand for years, the government hasn’t learnt lessons from them. The frequency and intensity of natural disasters in this region have caused immense loss to the people. Unfortunately, quite a few of these disasters have been caused by man-made activities. According to a report of the Uttarakhand Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre (DMMC), which studied the 2012 landslide and flash-floods in Uttarksahi, buildings were often constructed at unstable places and due consideration wasn’t given to the possibility of floods.

A similar study done by the HNB Garhwal University puts the blame on human intervention for increasing the region’s instability. According to this study, landslides mainly impacted sites where road-widening work was on, indicating that inadequate geological consideration and faulty engineering were responsible for their frequency. Similarly in 2009 a landslip triggered by a cloudburst hit Pithoragarh district’s Kuity village, killing 43. Many experts blame the government for overlooking incidents because they happened after the peak tourism season. The DMMC report has blamed riverside construction for the escalating devastations. With the booming tourist traffic having increased economic opportunities near roads and riverbanks, which were earlier used for farming, the site of residential and commercial construction, are now vulnerable to landslides and flash floods. Besides, there is evidence of seepage on loose soil and along seasonal streams. The government must not lose sight of these flaws in the development of the region. Its rehabilitation efforts must take into account new possibilities to avoid disaster and it must not fail to grasp the gravity of the situation.
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