Whether it is climate change that is the cause of it, or just natural progression, the nature of rainfall in Uttarakhand is becoming excessive. While meteorological department figures indicate a rise over the years, it is also becoming more localised, thereby causing more damage where it hits. At the same time, other climatic features are changing, such as retreat of glaciers, spread of vegetation to higher reaches in the mountains, etc. This is not just impacting on human habitations, but also lifestyles and agrarian practices. It does not seem that enough cognisance is being taken of these phenomena by the decision makers at various levels of governance. Even those who specialise in environment sciences are not being able to provide effective data and input for changes to be made in policy and planning.
It is difficult, therefore, for decisions to be taken in several areas that would require drastic changes, particularly where large amounts of funds would need to be allocated. For instance, the attempt by the Union Government to build ‘all weather roads’ should ideally require engineering solutions to the developing situation. Going by the widespread disruption of the road network in the state, this does not seem to be the case. Similarly, has the latest push for ‘reverse migration’, which has begun after the corona pandemic, taken these factors into account? Committing funds to such plans might eventually prove to be a waste if the climate does not cooperate.
And if the opposite happens and the hill people continue to move to the plains in the state, it is only certain that the kind of unprecedented scenes witnessed in Dehradun will only increase. The civic facilities are totally overwhelmed as habitations multiply without regard to even the basic arrangements for drainage. Colonies are being built just about anywhere without concern for anything except making a quick buck. The unfortunate people who end up buying the plots and constructing houses end up facing the depredations of the weather. The town planners are supposed to be anticipating such problems but are obviously not doing it, either because they do not have the ability, or are just not interested, particularly if they are making some extra money at the same time. The ‘Smart City’ set up seems to be just another layer of bureaucracy because, thus far, nothing smart has emerged from it. The problem is, once the monsoons are over, almost everybody will forget about it till the next catastrophe hits and the cycle will just keep repeating. Who will find the solutions?