Time to stop manmade disasters

Monday Musing

[ Amar Sangno ]

Merely two hours of heavy downpour of 40 millimetres was enough to wreak havoc in Itanagar and Naharlagun, leaving trails of destruction, on Sunday morning.

The unusual thing about the Sunday morning flood was that no warning or forecast of heavy downpour had been issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), all thanks to unpredictable weather leaving the IMD officials awestruck and woozy.

Heavy downpour during monsoon is a recurring phenomenon in the region; however, devastation of this magnitude was unprecedented in the Itanagar Capital Region (ICR).

The commonality of the cause of damages created by flooding in the township areas is quite perceptible. Rapid, and unregulated, earth-cutting in and around the ICR hills, which causes major siltation, is one of the serious contributors to such devastations.

The ICR district administration is seemingly clueless about the rampant earth-cutting activities, except for issuing executive orders from time to time to the people involved in unauthorised earth-cutting which often triggers major landslides and clogs up the drainage along the national highway.

The fast-growing urbanisation is another factor causing unprecedented floods in the area.

Disaster Management Secretary Dani Salu has rightly pointed out that most of the devastations caused in the ICR are manmade disasters, be it haphazard earth-cutting, indiscriminate disposal of solid waste, illegal mug dumping, or poor maintenance of drainage system.

Itanagar used to be a planned town once, when its demography was at the infant stage. With rapid urbanisation and rampant encroachments, the face of the planned town has significantly changed.  Though it falls under Seismic Zone-V, no holistic plan has been drawn up so far by the urban development and the town planning departments. Poor coordination among the departments while executing developmental activities in towns, and lack of proper vigilance have made the situation go from bad to worse.

We raise hue and cry only when the wound is fresh, but forget about it when the situation limps back to normalcy, such as when floodwater has receded.

The town planning department should come up with a robust plan to make the ICR at least resilient enough to face any flood situation in the near future. Call it bureaucratic apathy or lack of vision, the department has been unable to come up with a proper plan yet.

However, even if the department prepares a holistic plan, will it be allowed to be implemented on the ground by greedy residents of the ICR? Many are already flouting the urban development department’s regulations with regard to construction activities.

No development is possible without the citizens’ cooperation. We must ensure that there is a glimmer of hope that the ICR might become resilient to such devastations before it is too late to regret.