The path to holy Himalayan places using the old pilgrim’s route (see figure bottom left) by foot was used not too long ago. It served a soul-fulfilling purpose of the aam aadmi who carried their possessions in a cloth bundle on their head. They had no footwear, no warm clothes except perhaps for a chaddar of the coarsest (most comfortable and wieldy) kind; the older of them carried perhaps a stick. In my early perambulations (I don’t know if this is the right word … it just came to my mind) of the Himalayas during my non-formative chipko phase, I had walked around Vimlaji and Sunderlalji Bahuguna’s ashram in Silyara to Ghansali and Ghuttu and Gangi and I had looked wistfully at the pilgrims progressing towards Trijugi Narayan or Budha Kedar. They give substance to the image of holiness of a pilgrim’s journey.
These are our people from our perennial “हम तुम युग युग से ये गीत मिलन के, गाते रहे हैं, गाते रहेंगे” dreams.
They are very different from the middle-class aam aadmi, say, of the Kejriwal/Anna-Hazare kind, who go in hordes and demand well-paved roads and other middle-class luxuries.
Now, with our multimedia vision, the style of the journey has been encouraged to become the substance. There is a con in it --- the money-make-onics that goes in the garb of economic upliftment of the “poor” hill people. It is this “development” that seems to have brought down the Himalayas to this grim state of devastation which increases each passing year. The old pilgrim route (see figure above left) did not plunder, as they do now, the sides of the deep gorges of rivers for used by roads for buses.
It is turning out that the Himalayas will not take the load and their accompanying paraphernalia. In this context, I quite like Anant Shankar’s latest cartoon on pili-grims (above right) which should be there in one of his Crazy Desi Books (see http://www.timeoutbengaluru.net/books/features/purr-desi).
This blog is to make some science-based arguments on why we should leave the Himalayas alone and not attempt a reconstruction of the pilgrims’/soldiers’ route without truly understanding Her Majesty, Gaia or what we call Shakti.
Most of my arguments may be re-stating older arguments, at best in a new way. Some may be just new for newness’ sake. I hope some will create debate and thereby contribute to a better understanding.
If traditional beliefs are based on experience, we should follow tradition. We should walk. In the last part of this blog I have given a solution for the pilrgrims’ jopurney which need not be entirely togue-in-cheek.
Later in 1993 Haigh (“Garhwal Himalaya: Ecology and Environment,” edited by G. S. Rajwar) commented that the problem of detecting the geoecological correlates of landslide activity has proved sufficiently intractable that “some of the team” have become inclined to the view that the road-induced landslides are, essentially, independent of environmental controls. That is they are autopietic.
One of the scenarios associated with doomsday-like disasters is when there is heavy rain. It is this that we are most unprepared for. This helplessness, is expressed, for example in learned articles (Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 2341–2354, 2010) by, say, “On the other hand, larger phenomena (e.g., rock/earth slide, earth flow) usually affect the same zone repeatedly: short-lasting phases of mobilizations are commonly triggered by external causes (like heavy rainfalls or earthquakes) and may give rise to quite limited displacements; sometimes, the area involved in a landslide reactivation results remarkably enlarged.”
If it was the United States of America, they look after their own citizens. Mass-scale deaths of the kind witnessed two months back would have resulted in man-slaugther litigations. The pollution in the Gulf of Mexico by British Petroleum in 2010 led to a penalty of 4.5 billion dollars (~ 25000 crores). If I take Wikipedia into account, this sum is nearly 5 times the cost of building the Tehri dam. This penalty should be sufficient to discourage developmental recklessness.