Burning Issues

Kedarnath -Way Forward


Kedarnath -Way forward

-Susan Sharma


The higher reaches of Uttarakhand (UK) witness naturalcalamities on an annual basis during Monsoons, but the unprecedented anduntimely Monsoons of 2013 caught the state unawares.  The death of pilgrims who visit the stateduring the "safe seasons" brought the state to global notice due tothe sheer size of the tragedy and the rescue work involved. 

On 30th August 2013 Times of India newspaper along with the Government of Uttarakhand organized a seminar "Resurgent Uttarakhand".  Here are some of the key take- aways  from the seminar.

Green GDP

Green GDP is conventional gross domestic product with figures adjusted for the environmental costs of economic activities.  It is a measure of how a country is prepared for sustainable economic development.   Professor Partha Dasgupta from Cambridge University initiated work for a national resource accounting for India.   Mr.Ashok Sen. AVP- Response, The Times of India, hoped that this should now see some progress.

H.N Bahuguna, Chief Minister, Uttarakhand

"I take care of Environment; you take care of the State"

was the key take away from Chief Minister H.N Bahuguna's address. Subsequent speakers reiterated this idea as UK is the Ecological Capitalof India (Dr.Anil Joshi).  The CM reminded the audience that out of 16 varieties of forests found in India 8 are in UK.   68% of the land in UK is forest area.  The young state is  short of power in 78 villages.  19 villages have been identified for rehabilitation on the concept of Gross Environmental Product(GEP).  He emphasized on the need to promote popular destinations like Nainital, Mussorie etc which are unaffected by the recent calamity so that the State has a revenue stream from tourism.  He also felt the need for NGOs working at grassroots to co-ordinate with District administration so that there is optimum use of resources mobilized by them. Preventing migration of hill folk to plains was another priority considering the fact that UK shared borders with China and Nepal.

Coming to infrastructure creation (the area currentlydrawing flak from all quarters), the CM said 200 landslide prone areas havebeen identified which need tunnels. Citing the example of  European Alpine commission, the CM hoped thatthe  Himalayan Development Authority willlook at the potential of UK to generate hydro power after looking at allengineering and environmental angles. The immediate need of the State-boulders/moraine in rivers to beremoved.


Jairam Ramesh -Minister for Rural Development

"Hydel projectsto navigate a middle path of fundamentalists like Engineers andEnvironmentalists."

He suggested a five point program

1.UK deserves a green bonus. Costs are local, benefits global.

2. Regulate faith based traffic ( good eg. Amarnath,Tirupathy, Vaishnodevi)

3. Problems of 11 Hindi States to be addressed in a transboundary fashion-In 2009, 11 CMs proposed to create a Himalayan DevelopmentAuthority. 

4. Constraints are not financial but institutional and human resources related. Local systems and structures to be put in place. These  are governance related issues. 

5. Professional Body Uttarakhand Development Authority to control mushrooming constructions. 


 Forum moderated by Sunitha Narain, DirectorGeneral, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)

Prof.Anil K. Gupta, Director,  Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology,DehraDun

Monsoon flow controlled by Himalayas. UK glaciers retreating.  2 major glaciers @6m a year and @11m a year.  Heavy rain carried debris/moraine of glaciers.  Migration from hills not good for border security. River bed/river alluvium construction is bad the foundation is weak.  Educate people.

Dr. Prodipto Ghosh TERI Sr Fellow and Ex Secy of MoEF

OECD country similar to UK is Switzerland.  UK prone to seismic events and other problems, but in 30-50 years UK can become another Switzerland.

Mr V.K Duggal, National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA)

 in UK for last 2 months supervising rescue operations and now helping with the road map for future.

 5 point program

1. Maintain traditional ethos

2. Infrastructure as modern as possible (ropeways etc.)

3. Factorize hazard vulnerability-mitigation projects for 25zones

4. Balance of development and ecology-Experts taken abinitio, not later.

5.Technical input for Early Warning System outside Governmental System

3 day workshop in Wadia Institute 1-3 Sep to prepare road map.

Problems of implementation

1.short working season

2. 3 tier governance- Planning Executive Funding

Dr.Gautam Sinha, Founder Director  IIM Kashipur

Water resources and infrastructure planning from regional levels. Use community knowledge.  Work atcommunity level to increase preparedness for pre and post calamity work


Second Session -Forummoderated by TK Arun of Economic Times 

Prof..Anil P Joshi, Founder Himalayan Environmental Studiea& Conservation Organization(HESCO)

1. Will it come again?

2. Is environment degradation responsible?

Himalayan range is global-60% of water in India is given by Himalayas.   UK has opened our eyes.  UK is Ecological Capital of the Country(Mumbai financial capital, Delhi political capital).  Ecology and economy to go together.  New avenues for local employment must be explored-Raise forest and get paid; Harvest monsoon water and get paid for it.  This will prevent migration from hills. Sep 9. at Constitution Club, New Delhi, Himalaya Day is being observed.

Dr. Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Development Alternatives

Agrees with paying for ecological resilience.  Immediate results for wrong things.  In plains costs (for environmental degradation) are lower. Pitorgarh used to be centre for medicinal plants.Biggest job creator in the Himalayas is to bring back the health of the ecosystem.

Dr LMS Palni, Former Director,  GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environmentand Development

GB Pant Institute had prepared a report on geographical peculiarity of Himalayan States.   Little happening on the ground.

 Some recommendations

1.Carve out mountain specific engineering programs

2. Industries based on Himalayan resources eg.medicinalplant

3. Roads should be ridge aligned and not river aligned.

4. Himalayan Dev authority met in 2009 no conclave afterthat.   Need to consolidate-Resurgent Himalayas not just UK

Prof. Pradipta Banerji, Director,  IIT Roorkee

Development and Ecology should be replaced by Aspirations and Ecology.  Learn from history of disasters and move on. Get on the ground and get dirty.  Look after the aspirations of people.   IITs/IIMs must work together with people on the ground. 

Infrastructure building- Railway line through tunnelling from Rishikesh to Rudraprayag.- life cycle costs say over 50 years needs to be considered. Solani Aquaduct near Roorkee is a national heritage as much as Kedarnath.  Road map-get working on the ground.

Mr. Vijay Kumar, Operations Manager, Danish HydraulicsInstitute

Technology approach to facing disasters.  Early Warning Systems(EWS) like in Bhakra and Krishna Basin.  Forecasting &reservoir operations system for real time decision making.  SMS warnings to mobiles can help prevent loss of life.

Rakesh Sharma Addl Secy UK

Ozone layer depletion cause for 16th 3 hour deluge.  and 17th 4 hour deluge. Year after year lives are lost.  But this year the untimely occurrence caused more deaths.  


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