Himalayan disaster - EasternEye

Himalayan disaster


Rescue personnel work during a rescue operation after a glacier burst, in this still frame taken from video dated February 7, 2021, in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India (STATE DISASTER RESPONSE FORCE/via REUTERS TV).
Rescue personnel work during a rescue operation after a glacier burst, in this still frame taken from video dated February 7, 2021, in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India (STATE DISASTER RESPONSE FORCE/via REUTERS TV).

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.





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