Arjun Kumar, Anshula Mehta, Nishi Verma

Prof Milap Punia, Chairperson and Professor, Centre for the Study of Regional Development (CSRD), School of Social Sciences (SIS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, emphasized for a resilience program to copeto cope with the consequences of disasters like the Uttarakhand flood.

Prof Milap Punia was speaking during the panel discussion based on the topic, ‘Uttrakhand Flood Disaster 2.0: From Analysis to Action, organized by IMPRI Impact Policy and Research Institute, New Delhi, India Water Portal, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Alwar.

“If we cannot handle the wrath, we shouldn’t dare to disturb these ecologically sensitive places” – Prof Milap Punia

During his introductory note, Prof Punia highlighted the importance of analysis and action. He also shared some of the findings and recommendations from his research paper on disasters and risk reduction, published in 2019 titled “Governance in Disaster”, focused on the land-use policies in Uttarakhand. His recommendations included the need for revision of hydro-power policy, incorporating ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ and environmental flow and lock-gate operations. The policies must include mandatory installations of automatic weather stations and real-time flood forecasting systems at medium to large hydro-power plants and regulate hydroelectric power electricity. The government also strictly needs to implement the Dam Safety Bill of 2005.

Since 2013 and before, landslides and avalanches have been frequent due to lack of action to address and mitigate the possibility of such disasters. Prof Punia highlighted the regions prone to landslides in the state, like the Valley of Flowers. The chances of disaster striking are even higher since the construction of the “Char Dham” project. He advocated the need to regulate such unregulated growth and development and public administration. He urged the government to not execute projects if it will come in the way of conservation. 

Prof Punia also spoke about executing a resilience program to cope with the vulnerabilities of such projects and also the after-effects of a disaster, including psychological trauma. Commenting on the loopholes in the 2021 glacial disaster, he said that usually in the upstream of any flow, an advanced warning system should be installed to warn of any possible overflow or unusual behaviour in the stream which did not happen in the case of the Rishi Ganga flood. Citing the observations of ground level workers and GIS experts, he concluded that the disaster was worse due to the sudden impact of the rock debris falling which collected ice along its way and thus formed a sludge, turning the situation into a catastrophe.

Thus, the fundamental question arises of whether developmental projects should be allowed in ecological sensitive environments, because of which conditions worsen. There is a need for resilient infrastructure and planning much in advance to mitigate disastrous consequences of development projects.

During the discussion, Prof Punie also urged decision makers to take scientific evidence seriously and incorporate the feedback into policies and laws. Such disasters that strike repeatedly need to be avoided. He further advised that different agencies, be it a research institute, government body, policy firm, academicians or individual experts, coordinate with one another and avoid overlapping agendas. Such practice will lead to develop clear roles among institutions.

He also underlined that research communication is an important tool that needs to be provided to the citizens as well as the government. Prof Punia highlighted the importance of including insights while implementing projects. 

He concluded by emphasizing the need to accept and utilize newer and advanced technologies like sensor-based alert systems, which give information to the concerned agencies, which in turn give the relevant information to the public, as and when required. India being a signatory of the Sendai Framework should abide by it cover to cover and not deviate from it for shrewd development purposes.

India being a signatory of the Sendai Framework should abide by it cover to cover and not deviate from it for shrewd development purposes.

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