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Chamoli Disaster is Again a Timely Reminder to Us Not to Cause a Collapse of the Himalayan Environment for the Sake of Power Projects Mania

The recent calamitous incident in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand where experts believe either a landslip or a glacial lake burst caused a powerful deluge in the Dhauliganga and Rishiganga rivers in which 204 people went missing and 34 died, and also the dam and two power projects on the river site to collapse and get washed away by the speeding water, is a magnificent instance and a timely reminder of how nature resists human encroachment. The incident has once again brought back the focus on the larger environmental risk that the whole of the Himalayan region is exposed to by the unscrupulous building of dams all over the region, of which most we are not aware of, so remote they are. Before I go into the magnitude and scale of the risk that dams pose to our environment, let me attribute the building of these dams politically to the previous Congress government, as this was the party which initiated the plans for building of all these dams and power projects in the Himalayas in the first place; projects which have been built at the cost of huge amount of taxpayers money and more than that are hazardous to the environment, including life and property of the people living in the region. However, also, it’s apt to mention here that instead of retracing lost ground, the BJP government is carrying on this legacy of causing harm to the Himalayan environment and the people of the region only too well, in total disregard of environmental norms and Hindu religion’s sentiments for the Himalayan region.
Let me also mention that this disaster at Chamoli happened on February 7 morning even as I had just brought up the matter on February 6 night in these columns and asked why tunnels are being dug in the Himalayas when they are causing so much environmental damage. And again let me also add here that the Chamoli disaster is not a freak incident. Kathmandu earthquake with terrible damage and loss of life in 2015, a similar earthquake in Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand in 1991, flash floods in the upper reaches that devastated Kedarnath temple surroundings in Uttarakhand in 2013, earthquake at Malipa in Uttarakhand in which Indian film actress Protima Bedi died in 1998, Chamoli earthquake in 1999; the list is endless and the events have all come during the past three decades when environmental degradation has gone from bad to worse in the Himalayas. Isn’t it just too obvious that there is disaster in the making in these mountains, the way matters are unfolding in the last three decades.
My first encounter with dams came many years back in Himachal Pradesh, but in recent years, just about four years back, when I was travelling again in a terrain familiar to me in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh I found that numerous dams and power projects have been made in the high altitude regions of this district. I was very disappointed how things had come to this pass and of course knew who was behind these hazardous constructions. The environment has been disrupted no end by the witting or unwitting acts of successive governments in Himachal Pradesh, and also the engineers who have made the construction of dams and power projects possible. The large scale intrusions made into the natural environs of Kullu district is just too evident.
Now let’s come to some facts which are responsible for such disasters. As experts have time and again said, the Himalayas are a very fragile mountain environment. These mountains are not a solid chunk of rock which it may look like at first look. We see that sound echoes when it hits an obstructing object and it is needless to say the river has a constant sound vibration of water in the mountains which keeps the nearby environs – trees, rocks, snow, ice, moisture in the air, in short the very mountain, tuned in to this reverberation of the sound from the water, because of which the environ remains intact. When an artificial barrier is made on the river which is on a slope, the water hits the wall of concrete and the sound travels back in other directions in the fragile environs. So this travelling back and forth of the subtle waves of sound, when it becomes immense, causes waves of sound, water and earth movements, which causes natural disasters. It’s like the sound of an unnoticeable thunder clap and does have the potency to break open glaciers, or cause other such displacement of solid forms. To put it simply we see high tide and low tide in the seas. The high tide is nothing but a voluminous undercurrent formed after the waves reach the shore, and then, travel back in the reverse direction. That’s why you cannot swim in the beaches at high tide for danger of being drawn away with the undercurrent, but can easily do so in the low tide.
Now let’s take the discussion to add another view; that of the ontological, metaphysical or spiritual observation, whichever term you like to choose to understand. Like, for instance, water acquires the nature or characteristics of whatever it enters. Since glaciers or snow or mud and dirt are in question here, we see that when snow falls above the snowline it slowly acquires the character of solidity of rocks, when it falls in the alpine regions it acquires the nature of trees which have roots and which when they get constant water from the snow form roots which can carry the large weight of rocks and dirt which a mountain is composed of, meaning the tree’s roots acquire the nature of solid immovable rocks which prevent the mountain from breaking away from its grip. Then there’s moisture in the air caused by the constant evaporation of snow which makes air rare in the higher altitudes. Then there’s the sound of air. We see that when there’s a storm we fear the sound of the air or wind as it also causes destruction, but when the air is a breeze, the same air gives us a sense of comfort and good feeling and there’s no danger. So this is exactly how the Himalayan environment is fragile, if we start researching in depth into why scientists may call this higher altitude environment fragile, explored in their own factual scientific ways. So when the full moon is there the moisture is more in the air as the water acts against the gravity of the earth and rises more. But before the discussion diverts to other matters, let’s keep it more on the metaphysical side and take up the matter of God also, as explained by various major scriptures.
We see that God always is attributed to the direction upwards. So when the gravity of the earth is acted upon by the moon there’s more rarity in the air, gross rarity as in some plains, or subtle rarity like in the higher reaches; and that’s why we see that progeny higher in the mountains and people have a calm temperament and are not bothered much by anything. In the plains where there’s less rarity in the air the people are seen to be more volatile in any activity of business, profession, etc., and they are hence more materially productive. That’s why it’s always good to take a vacation in the mountains to cool down one’s stress and strain of living in the materially ambitious plains.
We can also see that since the Earth is kind of round and at the same time is rotating, there must be some amount of displacement of water from one end to the other. We can take an example of the Siju cave located in the north-east Indian state of Meghalaya. The cave is filled with water and is considered as the third longest cave system in India. The cave is 132 kilometres from Taura and contains some of the finest river passages to be found anywhere in the world. So we can be quite sure that there are underground waterways connections all over the Earth’s surface and displacement of water does take place from one end to the other as the Earth rotates. Only because of the gravity the spill over of water is not there. But as I explained earlier and since the human body is 70% water, the quality of the water we drink also matters how we feel. This can be related to the law of buoyancy. God is explained as a buoyant entity, water’s buoyant and air rarefied during full moon also is buoyant; and this principle of buoyancy acts more during the time the Earth rotates in conjunction with various spatial elements according to principles only metaphysics would know of.
But the sad part is that this displacement of water by the Earth rotating on its axis also causes many natural disasters, or man-made disasters like the one in question here, when man tries to turn the tide on natural laws, metaphysics or nature. Here we can also take up the animistic worship of the Sun, etc. The Japanese point of view during the World War was that which exceeded the natural direction of rotation of the Earth and hence the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour from the wrong direction of the Earth’s rotation, and this does cause changes in natural phenomena. So the United States of America and allies which bombed them from the right direction of the daylight could be maybe excused because there was a devastating war going on and these things do matter as far as the nature of our existence is concerned.
All these points taken up here have scriptural reference from all religions and maybe in India too we have to be very careful about not harming the Himalayas as their content, man and nature both, is purely natural, and as stated earlier, also fragile, unlike what looks like at the first instance; and also it is closely connected with Indian religious beliefs, let’s not forget that. The world is environmentally degraded today and very difficultly liveable in this sense too. Let’s not cause more harm to trees, rivers, mountains and oceans and try to live as much in the laps of nature as possible wherever we might be living.
In Manipur too there has already been an earthquake in 2016 and if construction plans like Tipaimukh dam are not stalled in the beginning only, these dams in the state could be the reason for disasters in this lower stretch of the Sub-Himalayan range too. There are already too many dams in the state which are in different stages of mismanagement and neglect, causing large risk to everybody. There are already repeated instances of floods, and flash floods due to man-made disruption in the environment could be the worst whenever they happen; chances being great as of now when we observe the happenings in the higher Himalayan regions. Even the tunnelling for the Imphal-Jiribam rail link is not feasible in terms of the environmental threat it poses, and even economically or for movement of people it’s not really required as Manipur is too small and remote a place for such economic adventurism. It’s better of course if the state government tackles this problem from an environmental point of view and safeguard Manipur’s hills, people and properties.

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