Rapid deforestation and aggressive construction work along river banks in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand are largely responsible for the current devastating floods, ActionAid said today.
The construction of more than 245 hydroelectric dam and mining projects along the 14 river valleys in the state within the last decade, has posed an enormous ecological threat. Rivers have been diverted, hills blasted and forests destroyed, causing large-scale soil erosion and landslides. Debris from the construction has raised water levels, which contributed to flash flooding when monsoon rains came early last week.
ActionAid’s Regional Manager for Uttarakhand, Debabrat Patra said:
“This aggressive and unregulated construction work has been playing ecological havoc for years. It is not surprising that disaster finally struck.
“When you blast the mountainside and destroy the forest in a steep valley prone to landslides caused by heavy monsoon rains, what do you expect?
“Hundreds more villages lie in the shadow of these dams. With little forest left to hold the earth, another burst of heavy rain could be disastrous for the people living there.”
As soon as the disaster hit, ActionAid began helping communities affected by the disaster with rescue and relief operations. The international aid agency will now scale up its work with the aim of reaching 10,000 people with shelter, medical supplies, food rations, emergency lighting, blankets and women’s hygiene products.
The Indian government has launched a region-wide evacuation for up to 100,000 people visiting the area for tourist season. However local people are concerned that once the tourists have been rescued, efforts to rehabilitate people in the area will slow down.
ActionAid is focusing its relief effort on the poorest, most vulnerable people including single women, orphans, Dalits, disabled and elderly people. ActionAid has been working in Uttarakhand for over ten years.
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Full caption for this image:
A man is pulled across to safety on a rope, as damaged buildings and the Alaknanda river are seen in the background, during a rescue operation in Govindghat in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand June 23, 2013. Flash floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains have killed at least 560 people in Uttarakhand and left tens of thousands missing, officials said on Saturday, with the death toll expected to rise significantly. Houses and small apartment blocks on the banks of the Ganges, India's longest river and sacred to Hindus, have toppled into the rushing, swollen waters and been swept away with cars and trucks.
@ REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui