Wednesday, December 8, 2021
EditorialsEditorial: Man-made disaster

Editorial: Man-made disaster

Published: 20th Oct 2021 12:51 am

Extreme weather events have become the norm in Kerala which has been bearing the brunt of heavy rains and floods with unfailing regularity. After suffering massive losses in 2018, which saw the worst flooding in a century, and again in 2019 and 2020, the State is now in the grip of Nature’s fury again resulting in the death of at least 24 people and the vast swathes of the God’s Own Country remain inundated. This is largely a man-made disaster; an outcome of an irresponsible environmental policy. Instead of investing in climate-sensitive planning, the successive governments have allowed destructive economic activities such as quarrying, unbridled construction and deforestation. Endowed with natural splendour, Kerala is located in a fragile ecological zone of the Western Ghats and receives the highest monsoon rainfall. Instead of nurturing the biodiversity of the region, the governments have been recklessly tinkering with its fragile ecology and allowing constructions in the name of development and tourism projects. Repeated warnings by environmentalists about impending dangers fell on deaf ears over decades. Much of the damage could have been avoided had the Kerala government implemented the recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel led by conservationist Madhav Gadgil. In its report submitted in 2012, the Gadgil committee identified over 13,000 sq km, located across 12 of Kerala’s 14 districts, as Ecologically Sensitive Areas and had warned that time was running out to save the Western Ghats. However, the successive governments ignored the obvious signs of environmental damage.

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All the areas that are now among the worst affected by the floods were classified under ecologically sensitive zones by the expert committee which wanted immediate stoppage of illegal stone quarrying and sand mining. Kerala has no choice but to scientifically and ecologically manage its land. The time has come to stop quarrying in the Western Ghats. Despite its high literacy and being a politically sensitive State, it has failed to devise timely and effective strategies against such recurring natural disasters. Illegal excavations, stone quarrying, mushrooming of high-rise structures and illegal forest land acquisition by private players are the major reasons for Nature’s fury. The devastation in Kerala stands testimony to the callousness of the urban policymakers in taking corrective measures. Tinkering with ecologically fragile regions in the name of development must stop. Kerala needs to show the political will to strictly implement Coastal Regulation Zone laws and regulations meant to protect the Western Ghats to minimise calamities in the years to come. In the rest of India too, the problem of flooding is largely due to inadequate urban planning and scant attention to the protection of the natural water bodies which provide crucial services like groundwater recharge and flood management.

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