'Northeast states should pursue green development'
As Uttarakhand and the northeastern states are geographically similar, the latter need to take lessons from the 2013 disaster that struck the north Indian state and pursue a green development vision, experts said here Wednesday.
"Geographically, the northeastern states are similar to Uttarakhand. Therefore, it is important these states start using local technology for building houses and stop using reinforced cement concrete (RCC)," said Rajendra Desai, managing trustee, National Centre for People's Action in Disaster Preparedness, Ahmedabad.
Addressing the International Conference on the Eastern Himalayas organised by the Centre for Northeast Studies and Policy Research at the Jamia Millia Islamia here Wednesday, Desai said Sikkim is giving false sense of security to people by increasingly using RCC for construction, which should be stopped immediately.
"The use of cement and steel increases the carbon footprint, which is highly detrimental and also contributes to climate change. The use of load-bearing masonry construction such as stone, timber, mortar will only help to reduce the long-term vulnerability of the region," he said.
Ravi Chopra, director, People's Science Institute, told IANS: "Climatologists have warned that because of global warming, destructive weather events will become more frequent in the future. In the times of climate change, the Himalayan states need to focus on their special characteristics and pursue a green development vision."
The experts said the government's intervention is required because getting local materials are difficult due to court orders.
"Taking sand from the river and procuring timber is considered stealing," Desai said.
According to him, even after disaster, the Himalayan states should focus on mid-term settlement and post disaster house-to-house damage assessment, which Uttarakhand has not been able to follow.
"Mid-term shelters are the best way for rehabilitation as these houses can be dismantled once new ones are constructed," he said.
Chopra also said since all these states are prone to disaster, their first priority should be to expand forest cover.
"To expand forest cover, the local communities must be made custodians and managers of their environmental and natural resources," he said.
Chopra said since its formation, Uttarakhand has lost 30,000 acres of forest land in the name of development.
"To avert disaster, good governance is essential to raise awareness among people. In Uttarakhand, people are being given money under several schemes but they do not know how it is to be spent," Chopra added.
The experts stressed it was poor governance that caused the deluge in Uttarakhand as the state disaster management was dysfunctional and there was no co-ordination between research and practice.
Uttarakhand was hit by one of the worst floods in recent times, leaving thousands dead and causing extensive damage.
(Posted on 13-02-2014)