Uttarakhand Election 2017: Environmental concerns continue to trouble state, political machinery remains ineffective

The BJP has been keeping a close eye on Uttarakhand, especially after the 2012 election, where Congress won by a margin of one seat. This is one of the reasons why the state's political machinery went into a tizzy last year with rebel MLAs from Congress defecting to BJP. The floods of 2012 and 2013 still remain on the state's issue cards.

The flash floods that hit Uttarakhand in 2012 and the massive rescue and rehabilitation work they entailed also brought the then chief minister Vijay Bahuguna's leadership skills into question and he consequently resigned. The state is still recovering from the after-effects of the devastating floods.

Representational image. AFP

The floods of 2013 battered Uttarakhand and the state is still to recover completely. AFP

As reported earlier, Uttarakhand was demarcated as a separate state in order to address the issues specific and unique to the hill state, one of which was that of environment and development. However, a little over a decade after its formation, many of the residents, especially those in the non-Terai area, complain that their concerns about life and livelihood in the hills have been neglected by the government. For example, there is a sense that there is disproportionate attention on the rescue efforts in favour of the tourists and visitors and not on those who are permanent inhabitants of the area.

According to The Indian Express, "The floods laid bare the risks of unbridled growth — and a quake of that magnitude is likely to cause much greater damage today," and the reason this issue remains fresh in the hill state is the palpable indifference in both the Centre and the state to acknowledge the potential environmental concerns that perhaps need to be considered with more seriousness.

Irregular mining has made the hill region more prone to floods, landslides and related natural disasters, causing immense damage to life and property.

Last year, skeletal remains were recovered of the 2013 floods, raking up fresh memories of the savage floods and the BJP said that the government was careless in running it's rescue operation and that they called it off in a hurry. Financial Express reported that BJP state president Ajay Bhatt lashed out at Chief Minister Harish Rawat on the issue last year and claimed that the government has failed to find out about the human remains.

Experts have blamed the frequency of flash floods on the hydroelectric projects in Uttarakhand. The Supreme Court benched all the projects after the flash floods. Various ministries in the government are bickering over the resumption of the stalled dam projects. Ministries of power, environment, forests and climate change seek to resume five hydroelectric projects, but there is severe opposition from environmentalists and activists.  Though the state is well on its way to recovery, the severity of the floods was unseen and is likely to register as a pertinent issue in the 2017 polls.

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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2017 18:50:59 IST

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