It took the devastation of practically an entire state for the authorities in India to realise the consequences of flagrant violation of environmental norms. The decision to ban all construction along river banks and flood plains in the state of Uttarakhand, most of it now reduced to rubble in this year’s monsoon, comes too late. While the ban is new, its raison d’etre is not. But corruption, greed and profit-making have such a manic hold on the Indian polity that issues such as safeguarding eco-sensitive zones, monitoring the impact of galloping tourism on them and reining in the giddy pace of urbanisation to cater to such tourism pale in importance.
The monsoon fury that descended on the northern state of Uttarakhand mid-June would otherwise have gone down in meteorological history as another quirk of nature, had it not been for the senseless exploitation of river, rock and tree by man. The thousands of people who got buried under landslides, got swept away by raging rivers, displaced by engorged flood plains, stranded by landslides and stripped of homes, belongings and family would not have been mere statistics as they are now.