Both Darjeeling MP Raju Bista and Siliguri MLA Dr Shankar Ghosh congratulated Dr Eklabya Sharma on being awarded the Padma Shri.
Both Darjeeling MP Raju Bista and Siliguri MLA Dr Shankar Ghosh congratulated Dr Eklabya Sharma on being awarded the Padma Shri. While Mr Bista extended his heartiest congratulations to Dr Eklabya Sharma on social media, Dr Ghosh today met Dr Sharma at his Siliguri residence.
Dr Sharma, originally from St Mary’s in Kurseong, had previously served as the deputy director general at International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu. He was also the head and the founding scientist incharge of GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Sikkim, Darjeeling MP Mr Bista said.
Dr Sharma is the chairperson of Science Advisory Committee of GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and a fellow of Indian National Science Academy. He had joined as the vice chancellor of TERI School of Advanced Studies, previously known as TERI University, Delhi. Currently, he is serving as the Strategic Advisor and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), BangaloreRead More
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Damaged stairs leading to a residential building and a tilted room in Joshimath, India, in January. | REUTERS
NEW DELHI – Joshimath is sinking.
That’s the harsh reality for the town — and its 25,000 residents — in India’s Uttarakhand state. The crisis, which came to a head earlier this year, is due to a combination of factors
— many of them human-caused — and has been building for some time in Joshimath, a town that is a gateway to popular Himalayan trekking trails, mountain climbing routes and holy Hindu sites.
But the subsidence in the town, which sits at an altitude of 2,000 meters, is having an even bigger impact than ever before, with over 800 buildings having developed cracks, forcing at least 4,000 people to evacuate and abandon their way of life.
The crisis is raising serious concerns for people’s safety and the future of not only this picturesque town but for the wider Himalayan region, which spans half a dozen countries, and the millions of people who call the “Roof of the World” home.
The villages of Duksar Dalwa and Nai Basti, both in the Jammu and Kashmir region, have also been facing similar crises in recent months, and some of the characteristics that make Joshimath susceptible to subsidence are true of other Himalayan locales.
Anand Madhukar, an assistant professor with New Delhi’s TERI School of Advanced Studies, and an expert on climate change and adaptation, is quick to highlight the human-caused factors behind what’s happening in Joshimath.
Madhukar notes that Joshimath, as is the case for the rest of the Himalayan region, has seen its population balloon since the turn of the century, at the same time as global warming has been creating a more unstable environment.
Indeed, the population in the Himalayan region — which grew by 250% from 1961 to 2011 — has stretched natural resources and caused major changes in land usage. That population growth has also created demand for infrastructure development — which is often unplanned and unchecked — further increasing disaster vulnerability.
A man stands outiside his uncle’s house, which developed cracks, in Joshimath in January. | REUTERS
Towns like Joshimath are even more vulnerable when disaster strikes.
“Joshimath is not situated on (stable) rock….. Rather, it is situated on moraine, which is basically the … material deposited by moving glaciers,” Madhukar said.
“So when these anthropogenic activities occur on such a sensitive geography, consequences like sinking of minor spots within the Himalayas tend to happen, which at present is Joshimath.”
Climate change is certain to exacerbate that issue going forward.
According to a 2019 report from The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development titled “The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment,” even if the world meets its Paris climate accord goals and limits warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a third of the region’s glaciers, which are a critical water source for over 1.5 billion people, will melt by 2100.
Another cause of the Joshimath crisis, Madhukar notes, is due to environmental issues brought about by the Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric power project, which is being built by state-run NTPC. The hydropower project began in 2006 and was scheduled to be completed in March 2013 but remains under construction, and some have pointed to the boring and blasting work for a related tunnel as a culprit in the sinking. The company and the Indian government have denied any connection.
That issue raises key questions about the development of towns like Joshimath that are situated in fragile environments.
Pointing toward solutions for the Himalayan region, Madhukar says that what’s needed is development that takes the local environment into consideration.
“Development is necessary, but it should not be maximized; rather, it should be synchronized and harmonized with environmental considerations,” he says.
“South, Central and East Asia all are connected with the Himalayan ecosystem,” he adds. “A (disaster) anywhere would … affect (the) entire region irrespective, of the borders made by nations.”
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