Tuesday, April 28, 2015

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: Who is the culprit?

I am writing this week's piece as the horrifying stories of the havoc caused by the earthquake in Nepal and Northern parts of India are still unfolding. 

The Himalayas are relatively young mountains and their height is still growing. This mountain range is actually a 'fold' formed as the plate of the Indian subcontinent is pushing under the plate of China. As a result this entire area is and will remain prone to earthquakes. Minor tremors is a routine matter in this region, but there have been strong earthquakes too occasionally. In fact if you consider the total area of Pakistan, North India, China, Bhutan, and Nepal, strong earthquakes with devastating effects have occurred quite frequently in this region.  In view of this always eminent danger of major earthquakes, what precautions have been taken by the people or the governments in this region? Forget about the people living in the region, how prepared/informed are we in the rest of India, when we flock to Nepal as tourists and expect/demand certain amenities and conveniences? 

The earthquake has indeed caused a widespread damage to historic monuments, and also impacted the mountaineers. But the large number of victims is primarily due to collapsing concrete buildings. Who then is the culprit? The earthquake, or the short sighted policies that did not impose appropriate building codes to ensure earthquake proofing? 

I have visited Nepal a few times over the last few years in connection with my work, and every time the changes have been disturbing - I see more shops, narrower roads, more multi-stories buildings every time, and more tourists (mostly Indians - the European tourists typically come to Nepal to 'rough it' and avoid the urban 'comforts' as much as possible) demanding even more of the same. I just do not get the logic of going to a breathtakingly beautiful country and spend most time shopping and gambling (although I think the casinos were closed down last year)! So in a way, WE are all responsible for the tragedy that has struck Nepal, by encouraging the cities and towns in this geologically sensitive zone to become congested urban sprawls in order to serve us as tourists. 

This once again underlines the point that I have been trying to drive home over the last few weeks - the root cause of many if not all of our problems today is to be found in the industrial/urban life style that we, as a civilisation, have identified as THE ideal, THE Utopia, to be achieved by every community, in every corner of the globe. 

Priyadarshini Karve
Director, Samuchit Enviro Tech



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