By Amit Roy
LIKE the Covid pandemic, climate change does not respect boundaries. A Himalayan glacier broke away and triggered a flood that has swept away everything in its wake, including the Rishiganga hydroelectric dam, in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand last weekend.
This disaster has immediate consequences and a more serious long-term one. For some time, it has been apparent that glaciers in the Himalayas, which feed the rivers in the Gangetic plain, have been melting.
As schoolchildren in India, we were taught the rivers, especially “Ma Ganga”, brought life to the country. If the rivers run dry, much of northern India would resemble the Sahara. The increasingly acrimonious and depressing dispute between the Indian government and the farmers becomes irrelevant in comparison.
The first thing the Narendra Modi government should do after dealing with the immediate crisis is act on the biodiversity report by Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta. As he has said, this is not about the UK, but “a global report”.
The stance of the Indian government has been that climate change has been brought about essentially by industrialisation over the last couple of centuries in western countries. That is undoubtedly true. But as the break-up of the glacier shows, it is now in India’s interest to champion a global solution. It helps that climate change denier Donald Trump is no longer in office.
What happened with the Himalayan glacier is not a one-off tragedy, but a glimpse of the future.