As lakhs of Malyalis return to their homes now to retrieve the fragments of their broken lives, it is imperative to dwell on the reasons for this wrath that befell from the heavens. Environmentalists lament that warnings of history, geography and scientific evidence were ignored. Several government committees like that of Professor Madhav Gadgil and Dr K Kasturirangan, among others, had warned that catastrophe would follow if unchecked development and deforestation continue in the fragile eco system of India’s Western Ghats.
The recent bridge collapse in Kolkata is another example of the urban mess we are creating. High profile Twitter denizens went into an overdrive revealing that at the root cause is the problem of construction mafias and moneybags that block rainwater’s right of way and storage, leading to massive deluges, building collapses and fires (Kamla Mills, in recent times) that result in loss and destruction.
Fourteen Indian cities are among the world’s 20 most polluted, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data. Kanpur topped the list of world cities with the highest PM2.5 levels in 2016. Delhi citizens battle severe respiratory problems related to rising air pollution levels every year. Water pollution is the cause for huge increase in gastro problems.
India has seen rapid development in the past two decades. The rise in pollution of air, water and land has also been abnormal. In the midst of all this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has grand designs to build 100 futuristic “smart” cities in India. The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was launched on 25 June 2015 by the PM. Will these again pander to the corporate agenda of digitalisation and automation? How many unprecedented floods, storms and droughts and every conceivable pattern of weather woes will we see before we wake up?
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PCC), an international body set up to assess the science of climate change, we can continue to expect an increase in the average global temperature. That means we will be experiencing warmer years in the future. For every degree rise in temperature, the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere increases by 7%, so in a warming ocean, the air above the water has a much greater capacity to hold water and thus store more rain that can feed more powerful storms. (See, https://phys.org/news/2018-01-weather-worse-experts.html)
A serious relook at the creation and implementation of Urban Master Plans is needed to check the rot further.