Day 1: HP CM moves resolution to declare HP Monsoon tragedy a ‘National disaster’
Shimla, Sept 18
In a monumental move, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has presented a resolution to the state assembly, fervently urging the Central Government to declare the ongoing monsoon-induced disaster in the region a national calamity. The resolution, presented on the first day of the assembly session, paints a dire picture of the devastation caused by landslides, floods, and other natural disasters in the state.
Himachal Pradesh, celebrated for its picturesque landscapes and tourism appeal, is currently grappling with extensive damage to roads, bridges, drinking water and irrigation systems, power projects, and both private and government properties. The catastrophe has also resulted in a significant loss of life and property.
The state, located in the Himalayas, is no stranger to natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, and avalanches. While the monsoon rains are crucial for its sustenance, they simultaneously leave a trail of destruction, impacting lives, livelihoods, and vital infrastructure year after year. This season’s monsoon has proven particularly ruthless, with multiple waves of damage occurring in July, August, and late August. The estimated loss incurred thus far is staggering, exceeding Rs 12,000 crore when accounting for both direct and indirect losses.
As of September 17, 2023, a tragic toll of 441 lives has been claimed, with a variety of causes including landslides, floods, cloud bursts, and other disasters. Additionally, the state’s power sector has suffered a colossal setback, with the Larji Power Project in Kullu sustaining massive damage. Faulty construction by the National Highways Authority of India is believed to be a contributing factor, resulting in a loss of Rs 657.74 crore, alongside a revenue loss of Rs 344 crore due to disrupted power generation. The power sector’s indirect loss alone amounts to Rs 1,000 crore, promising further financial strain on the state’s resources.
The scale of destruction is unprecedented, rendering numerous villages uninhabitable and necessitating the establishment of relief camps. Multiple roads, including major state and national highways, have been severely impacted, hindering the movement of people, goods, and services. With the tourist season approaching in October and November, it is imperative that road connectivity is urgently restored to facilitate the transportation of crops and support local businesses.
Furthermore, the industrial hub of Baddi Barotiwala Nalagarh Industrial Development Authority (BBNDA) has witnessed severe damage to its road networks, affecting the movement of raw materials and finished goods, as well as the workforce. This disruption has resulted in reduced production and subsequent revenue losses for the state.
To address these critical issues and plan for recovery, the Himachal Pradesh government has formed a task force, chaired by the Principal Secretary Finance, tasked with assessing the indirect damages across various sectors including industry, tourism, agriculture, and transportation. The findings will guide efforts to restore normalcy in these areas.
In a bid to expedite aid and reconstruction, Himachal Pradesh was officially declared a “disaster affected area” on August 18, 2023. Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has personally implored the Government of India, including the Union Home Minister and Prime Minister, to declare the disaster a “National Disaster” and provide a special relief package to support infrastructure rehabilitation and assist affected individuals in rebuilding their lives.
To accurately estimate the resources required for recovery, a detailed “Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)” is underway in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The PDNA findings will be shared with the Ministry of Home Affairs in early October 2023.
In light of this unprecedented tragedy, Chief Minister Sukhu has drawn parallels to past disasters such as the Bhuj earthquake in 2001, the Kedarnath disaster in 2013, and the recent land subsidence in Joshimath in 2022. The recovery process is expected to be long and costly, and the state is looking to the Government of India for generous financial assistance, mirroring previous special relief packages granted in the wake of major calamities.
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