Wednesday 3 July 2013

Uttarakhand Bans any Construction Along River Banks

Written by Anil Singh

The Uttarakhand Government has finally banned any construction on river banks. This may not solve the problem of floods in Uttarakhand, but will surely reduce the loss of humans and the property. This will also reduce the money burden (in the form of compensation) on the Uttarakhand Government. If implemented properly, we will see a big improvement in the destruction caused by flash floods.

That said, lets hope that  the Uttarakhand Government will also try to reclaim dry river beds, city drains from human encroachment.

Lets hope, when Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told the media,

-- "Strict action will be taken against anyone who allows construction on river banks. A new body will be set up that will oversee development projects. The authority will look at all long-term planning and development for Uttarakhand. This will help ensure transparency." ;

He means what he says.

Lets not Lose Focus by Bringing the Livelihood issue of the People:

24 hour News channels have the compulsion to dissect an issue from every perspective. This invariably brings the people in every situation. But, lets not lose our focus by bringing here the livelihood issue of the people. Surely, some people who have built their shops, homes on river banks will be affected by the decision; but the displacement now is much better than the loss of property and Lives the next monsoon. Isn't it?

If done correctly, this Uttarakhand Government decision will never become a threat to the people's livelihood, especially in the long run.

Another perspective which we need to guard ourselves against is the one which says: Where was the government when the construction was taking place?

The Government may not have done its job well; but what are our responsibilities as a citizen. Where was our conscience when we encroached on extra 10 feets of the river bed, or the seasonal river or the municipality drain? If we need to stop the loss of precious human lives and lifelong property, we will need to answer these questions. However difficult they may seem. Doing everything wrong on our personal front and still sit on a high moral pedestal will not work. Something, Parmarth Niketan Gita Bhawan, Rishikesh and other Ashrams do all the time. These Ashrams themselves have encroached hundreds of feet of Ganga river bank; and when it comes to moral sermon, the gurus sitting there blame everyone from governments to dams.

Another question, which needs to be looked at seriously, is the one which says: What people sitting in Delhi and Dehradun know about the realities of Uttarakhand?

Actually they are not common people. They are people who have the power, resources, expertise, skills to deal with broader questions that affect us today. These are our representatives in the Government or are the Experts, who have studied the subjects in question. If, I as a common man, can't help you in such a situation; then surely it's the Government and these experts who can provide the solution. Skepticism is better, but not all the time.

The government's announcement for the Eco-zone notification for Gomukh to Uttarkashi is being opposed - not just by the people inside the government but even the opposition. But, that doesn't mean the decision is taken with no sound ground. Many renowned environmental experts have welcomed the decision, which includes Sunita Narain. Director of the centre for science and environment Sunita Narain told NDTV, "He (CM) has addressed the fact that there is construction near the river bank but what he needs to do right away is come up with a notification which is within the state law which says that this will not be permitted."

Now lets not discourage the Government with an unending skepticism; and lets support it to implement the decision strictly. Remember it's not necessary for shops, Ashrams etc to be on river banks to be economically viable. Under a proper arrangement, they can even do brisk business, 100 feet away from the river bank.

No one took Uttarakhand Seriously:

Apart from pointing to Uttarakhand's unpreparedness at times of disasters; one other thing which is thrust upon Uttarakhand's collective conscience, by newspapers and TV channels, in past fortnight, was -- Uttarakhand's sheer incapacity. We Uttarakhand people are told by all and sundry, including CMs of other states, that we are stupid morons -- Who don't know how to rescue people, provide food for stranded tourists, make them feel safe, find the missing ones, How to rebuild our destroyed temples, and how to cremate the dead as per religious texts.

This is unfortunate, as this happened when Uttarakhand, its people and its Government did everything in its capacity to help those affected. Whatever anyone says, We know How to manage our state and greet our guests and make them comfortable. We are not Stupid Morons (in Hindi "Buddhiheen").

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