17 June marked the third anniversary of the Uttarakhand floods that killed more than 5000 people and left the infrastructure of the state in shambles. The intensity of the floods was such that the state government has not been able to arrive at a number of ‘official’ deaths in the disaster, with many families of the deceased yet to receive a death certificate.
In the aftermath of the disaster, a report by the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) has indicated that unregulated construction of dams in the Alaknanda and Mandakini basins, along with adverse weather conditions, could have led to the flooding. Human intervention is increasingly seen to be the cause of disasters in the Uttarakahand, with recent reports that the fire in April 2016 leading to a large-scale destruction of trees and forest cover could have been man made.
Despite the widespread destruction of infrastructure and huge toll of the floods in the state, there are signs of recovery: people are making their way back to the pilgrimage site of Kedarnath, and the ‘Valley of flowers’, a popular tourist destination, opened to the public for the first time in 3 years. There are untold stories of the strength and resilience of survivors in the face of calamity, everyday individuals building their lives from scratch, after they saw it washed away three years ago.
Pragya has been working to rehabilitate the livelihoods of the people in the areas that are worst affected by the floods, by providing the people with alternate sources of income, in a state whose economy is geared toward revenue from tourism. We are also piloting a grassroots, citizen - led early warning system to be implemented in the districts of the Uttarakhand in the coming year. 3 years on, we remember all the people who lost their lives in this tragedy, and the lessons remain clear: concerted conservation efforts and minimizing human intervention in the environment are a necessity if we are to avoid tragedy on such a scale in the near future.