There are enough studies and data to establish that a disaster such as this is not only man-made but also, by that token, pre-ordained. It is a matter of common sense that if you build on river beds and flood plains, your structures will be washed away when the rains come and the river bed/flood plains fill up with water. That is why even the barely literate, part-time farmers who reside in, and grow vegetables on, the Yamuna flood plains in Delhi pack their belongings and shift onto higher ground every year just before the monsoon.

It is also a matter of common sense that if you mine river beds for sand and gravel, if you indiscriminately divert forest land for mining, and if de-silting of rivers is not carried out, then you are setting yourself up for extreme soil erosion, landslides, and flash floods of unmanageable magnitude. But sadly enough, it is common in our myopic vision of development to choose short-term “solutions” over long-term sustainability. What passes for development in Uttarakhand is nothing but the material manifestation of the will to power—and pelf—of a shifting consortium of politicians, builders, real estate speculators and sand-mining contractors. Read More

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