Floods and manmade natural disasters have once again wreaked havoc in northern India, leaving a trail of destruction and loss of life. At least 50 people have lost their lives due to heavy rain, flash floods, and landslides.
The worst affected areas include Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The intense rainfall has led to the demolition of buildings, the collapse of bridges, the sweeping away of vehicles, and the breaching of dams. The situation has been described as an "unimaginable scenario" resembling doomsday.
Thousands of people, including tourists, have been stranded in various locations, with disrupted road networks, power outages, and limited mobile connectivity.
The government, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and state Disaster Management Authorities have activated thousands of security forces and volunteers to assist those in need. However, the scale of the devastation remains immense.
Have we learnt the lessons from the past
This is not the first time that our country has faced such a calamity. The country has witnessed severe floods and landslides in various regions in recent years, leading to loss of life and extensive damage. Scientists attribute these extreme weather events to climate change, intensifying the monsoon season and disrupting rainfall patterns.
Climate scientists also suggest that the changing climate has resulted in prolonged dry periods followed by heavy rainfall events, causing floods. The vulnerability of mountainous regions like the Himalayan foothills and the Western Ghats has increased due to their exposure to heavy rains and landslides. In addition, human greed to cut trees and pave ways in the mountain areas to make their nests and luxury.
While these disasters have become an annual occurrence, the response from authorities and society at large often falls short. Immediate measures are taken to address the immediate aftermath, but long-term solutions and preventive measures are often neglected.
Political leaders and citizens must recognize the urgency of the situation and take proactive steps to combat climate change. Short-term thinking and reactive measures are insufficient to address the magnitude of the crisis. The consequences of inaction will be dire, impacting air quality, food security, water resources, and human life itself.
Addressing climate change requires a transition away from fossil fuels and a shift towards a green economy. International development and financing institutions should be transformed into engines of climate action, and strict actions should be taken against those who contribute to the crisis.
The impacts of climate change go beyond immediate disasters. Soaring prices of essential commodities, including food, fuel, and fertilizers, exacerbate the crisis and affect the livelihoods of farmers and communities.
Floods also pose health risks, with stagnant water becoming breeding grounds for waterborne diseases, while the contamination of floodwaters with sewage and chemicals further compounds the situation.
Furthermore, there are concerns about the long-term effects of the disaster, including the displacement of people, environmental contamination, and the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance carried by floodwaters from border areas.
To effectively address the crisis, a comprehensive approach is needed. This includes conducting research, assessing the needs of affected communities, implementing practical actions, and providing education and training to raise awareness about climate change and sustainable living practices. It is not only the responsibility of the government but also of every individual to contribute to this collective effort.
India's Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) should be supported in its work, along with organizations such as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Forces (SDRF), volunteers, the Red Cross Society, and other NGOs involved in climate change initiatives.
The road ahead requires pilot projects, innovative solutions, inclusive partnerships, and dedicated policy development platforms. Accelerating the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is essential for overcoming the multiple crises threatening decades of progress.
Ultimately, tackling the climate crisis requires political will, social determination, and the use of multilateral tools. It is a challenging task, but with the right guidance, collective energy, and commitment, we can make a difference and create a sustainable future for generations to come. As the UN Secretary-General once said, "There is still time to act, but that time is now."
Let us heed the call of our planet and recognise that the time for change is now. By embracing sustainable practices, conserving resources, and fostering a deep respect for nature, we can collectively safeguard our Earth and ensure a brighter future for generations to come.
Author is a regular contributor to Greater Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.