By Vijay Darda | 27-08-2018
Nature alone is not responsible for the devastation caused by floods in Kerala, it is also the outcome of human greed
I was watching some of the videos of the catastrophe caused by floods in Kerala. A person standing atop the hill may have made this video. The floodwater was seen carrying the debris at full speed. Suddenly, a small hill in the middle collapsed and its debris also flowed with floodwater. I could not believe that this could happen. I saw the video repeatedly and tried to understand how the hill could collapse. It seemed as if the little hill was hollow from inside! It must have been dug from the bottom. The mining mafia must have quarried ‘murum’ and sold it in the market!
My doubt is not baseless as situation in the whole country is like this. By travelling through road in the mountainous areas, you can witness this scenario as to how human hands are excavating the hills for their needs. The same is the case with the rivers. Government rules say that if rivers are excavated in the middle then there is not much damage to the rivers. The sand should not be dredged from the bank of the rivers at any cost. Environmental experts also endorse it. However, this is practiced more in breach than observance.The sand mafia in the country is so active and powerful that the authorities dare not touch them. The reports of the attack on officials by the sand mafia continue to keep filtering in from different parts of the country.
The rampant excavation of hills for murum and stones and dredging of rivers for sand are responsible for the worst damage to the nature. Sand-mining has changed the flow and stream of the rivers and the existence of very small and seasonal rivers linked to them has come to an end. Hundreds of small and seasonal rivers have now disappeared. Actually, nature has its own pace; it has its own cycle. Of course, disasters have always been visiting the living creatures on the Earth. Sometimes it is earthquake and sometimes torrential rains and deluge. They have all caused devastation! But the same cycle has also produced a variety in life.
The problem became more serious when human development began. Humans started tampering with the nature for their needs. The housing projects encroached upon the land where the river or nullah flowed. Even the banks of rivers began to be encroached upon. When building a house, the man did not even notice whether his house stood in the way of natural flow. Small rainy nullahs were divided. The greed of man continued to grow and so also his plundering of natural resources. The trees that held the soil were cut down. The forests were destroyed. People built houses on hills’ slopes.
Nature can bear up to certain limit and beyond that we have to endure its wrath. This nature’s fury was also witnessed in Uttarakhand. Similar natural calamity was also caused in Chennai a few years back and now we are seeing it in Kerala. The area which was flooded most in Chennai once used to be swamp, but people built residential colonies on it throwing all the rules to the winds.
The unfortunate part is that our governments have been ignoring this matter. The report prepared by the Western Ghats Ecological Expert Committee (WGEEP) in 2011, headed by environmentalist Madhav Gadgil, clearly stated that many areas under Western Ghats in Kerala were termed as sensitive. But, the Kerala government opposed it. Had the government accepted its recommendations, it would have had to stop mining and also prevent indiscriminate construction in the entire region. In the context of floods in Kerala, Gadgil had clearly stated that this is a man-made tragedy and has warned that such a situation can happen in Goa too.
There is no doubt that Kerala has received three times more rains this year than normal. So the calamity was imminent, but it became more catastrophic as the residential colonies were built on the path of the rivers. It is learnt that such a situation developed after hundred years. One reason for the crisis becoming more serious is the absence of human management. The opening of 34 out of 37 gates of dams has never happened before in Kerala. In the same way, 35 gates of 39 reservoirs had to be opened. Remarkably, many of these reservoirs were never filled to the brim in the past. All these gates were opened when the water level crossed the danger mark. When the authorities saw that it was raining heavily, they should have started releasing the water in the dams slowly. Had they done that, the result would not have been so devastating!
However, we need to understand that if we have to preserve and protect our existence, we have to learn to live with the nature. The more we destroy the nature, the nature will destroy us many times more!
Before I conclude…
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel and officials who are engaged in rescuing the marooned people of Kerala need to be complimented. Since its formation in 2006, the NDRF has always emerged as a force to reckon with. Whether it is flood, earthquake or any other natural or man-made disaster, this force has saved the lives of thousands of people with their courage, determination and strength. Congratulations NDRF!
For any catastrophe we easily blame the nature but do not think about what role man has played in this natural disaster? Nature has its own pace, its own cycle but the reality is that we are playing havoc with the nature. In such a situation, we will have to endure its wrath!