ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Human Footprint

on the Devabhoomi

In the aftermath of the catastrophic flashfloods and landslides that ravaged the state of Uttarakhand in mid-June 2013, we need to analyse the calamity and identify the role of human footprints on the Himalaya in magnifying the losses of life and property in the state.

This article has been published in the web exclusives section of the EPW website

Widespread heavy rainfall in large parts of Uttarakhand caused floods and landslides in mid-June 2013, wrecked havoc in the state and devastated its economic future. Several thousand people are reportedly dead or are still missing; hundreds of villages have been destroyed to the extent that they are not fit as human habitat in their present state. The human tragedy is enormous and deserves all the support and relief. However, we generally wake up after a disaster strikes and deliver liberal relief, as has also been the case for Uttarakhand. We often stop at that point thinking that the state and the people have done their duty.

Are we to put all the blame on nature and sit pretty? What have we learnt from this immense human tragedy in the Devabhoomi, as Uttarakhand is also called, for science and future policy is the important question. Are we in a position to analyse this calamity and identify the role of human footprint on the Himalaya in magnifying the losses of life and property? Can we initiate a fundamental reassessment of our vision for and approach to the Himalaya, so as to prevent large-scale losses from such naturally occurring calamities that are expected to visit the mountain periodically?

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