The recent flood fury news has been very disturbing to read and difficult to digest.Many have blamed the unchecked and haphazard construction as the main cause of nature outburst. The construction is mainly done to accommodate the growing demand of tourism in these regions, which has now in turn sadly brought more pain than relief to the entire valley.
I recently visited a famous hill station in the Himalayas (and luckily came back just before tragedy stuck). It was the beginning of the end of the season and the crowd and traffic jams over there were so huge that they would have embarrassed the ones found regularly in cities like Mumbai. The narrow roads and the sloping terrain of the Himalayas were finding it a Himalayan task to manage the tourists who had come in thousands of numbers. A person could reach a place faster walking rather than travelling in automobile !!
Good, bad or ugly , but the picture of our hilly regions has definitely gone a transformational change over the years, and will continue to do so in the years to come.
Now on the positive side what do the ever increasing number of tourists bring to any tourist spot? A huge spike in the incomes, enough to make their ends meet even in the off season.I had visited the same place 2 decades back and saw huge positive developmental changes, with plethora of branded shops and establishments flooding the market areas. Internet connectivity was also available in areas where not many years ago, telephone connections were unheard of. So yes, overall things have improved in these tourist spot regions with the growth of tourism industry over the years.
So, is the growing tourism to be blamed for the current mess? Partly yes, with garbage getting accumulated on the roads due to indifference shown by us towards the nature. But with countless hotels being constructed carelessly on slopes with loose soil, erosion was always on the cards. Power projects have also been recognized as one of the main culprits.Global warming is anyway already causing the snow to melt rapidly, adding to the velocity of the ravaging rivers.
The biggest irony is that although tourism and unregulated construction have caused pain in the valley off late, the lack of tourism for the next couple of years is going to hurt the locals as much as now, if not more. Tourism as a principal source of income will cease to exist for the time being. The huge costs for restoration of property destroyed by the floods are only going to add insult to injury for the locals, who are getting punished for really no fault of theirs.Just as the rivers are leaving no stone unturned in their path, the politicians are, as expected leaving no stone unturned in creating this a political issue and hampering rescue efforts through their worthless aerial surveys.
So what are the leanings for us from the event ? Heed the advice of the ‘real’ experts and regulate the construction and development of eco-sensitive regions. Increasing number of tourists are handled much better in other countries, including ones less developed than us. Take a leaf out of their book. Strict punishment to those polluting the environment here is a necessity. We need realistic and sincere efforts from all towards protection of the flora and fauna here else we would lose the beauty of our natural resources in the not so far future.The direct fallout of destruction of any hilly region will be the ever increasing diaspora to urban cities, a problem already so huge that we really don’t need any more means to aggravate it.