Himalayan blunder

03 December,2023 04:34 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Rahul da Cunha

But we are a young, unstable, and fragile mountain range, with an active fault line—making us more prone to earthquakes. 

Illustration/Uday Mohite


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Think of this as a gentle reminder - us Himalayas, we're like the First Family of peaks, the "roof of the world", crossing India, China and Pakistan. Mount Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga and Nanga Parbat, our prized exhibits.

But we are a young, unstable, and fragile mountain range, with an active fault line - making us more prone to earthquakes.

So in layman's language, if you randomly build badly constructed roads, tunnels, and dams into our range, we're more susceptible, yes?

Why are you unable to live in ecological harmony with us?

How many more hints do you need? How much more damage before you wake up and smell the rubble? The extensive land subsidence in Joshimath, that destroyed property and livelihoods earlier this year, the flash floods over the years at Kedarnath, Ladakh, and Sikkim, and hundreds of our landslides - all of these directly linked to reckless and uninformed construction work. Why is nobody concerned? Landslides and flash floods are our language of resistance, our reply to your ruthlessness.

This Silkyara tunnel, to allow more devotees to visit the holy shrines of Uttarakhand… widening roads indiscriminately… didn't you expect a response from us… or do you take silence for weakness?

When the tunnel collapsed, leaving 41 men trapped… even then, the narrative was, will they make it out or not? Isn't it time they stop hacking into the mountains?

What's the point of spiritual upliftment if it leaves in its wake scientific demolition? In any case, who asked our permission? Who signed off on this encroachment? We don't want to stand in the way of your development, but not at the cost of our destruction. When will you learn? Would the magnitude of destroying mountains have struck home if after 400 hours, the 41 men hadn't made it? All your machines and drillers and bulldozers and Arnold Dix and auger machines, couldn't get those men out, understand we wouldn't have hurt anyone, damned if we want anyone dead on our watch… but you were saved by the 12-man rat pack - I tell you, they understand us, those men, they respect rocks, they revere geology, furrowing deep, down on their knees, for hours, getting coal out, sure theirs is a slightly jugaad business, but they respect us.

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Once the dust settles, and the debris is cleared, and Munna Qureshi and his merry band of 12 rat miners having enjoyed their moment in the sun, go back to their humdrum, underpaid lives, remembering those two days when they pulled off the biggest rescue mission of their lives… and if one day a film called Munna Bhai MBBS (Bachelor of Mining-Bachelor of Survival) is made, and they are called upon to narrate their tales of heroism, and maybe Vicky Kaushal, plays the lead, and work his expressive body into a contortion, to be able to sit on his haunches for three hours at a time, maybe by then you'll have a learnt a few lessons, about ecology and the economic situation of daily workers.

Look we're no fee-fi-fo-fum monsters, no Abominable Snowmen, no fire spewing dragons venting at you with our ire… but you're messing with our eco system… our environment, got it?

Every time you widen a road you encroach on our slopes, every time you dig a tunnel you increase a fault line… When you resume work on the Char Dham project, as you no doubt will, get your due diligence sorted, get your structural audits in place, don't flout your norms, because uncomfortable truths will be unearthed - don't just randomly dig and drill and damage and destroy in the name of development - and ultimately decompose what we stand for. We are Mother Earth that no earthmover can dislodge.

Make sure your blueprint plans think of the green fallout.

We will not stay quiet, believe us, landslides will be the least of your problems. Nature has to be nurtured.

You have been warned. No more Himalayan blunders.

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahul.dacunha@mid-day.com

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