Explain the reasons behind the landslide in Manipur and also give suggestions to avert the future disasters.
The Railways have reportedly blamed jhum or shifting or slash-and-burn cultivation on hill slopes for the tragedy, sparking debates on the tendency to overlook geological challenges and not factor in climate change while executing major developmental projects.
Major reasons behind the Landslide in Manipur:
- Sanctioned in February 2005 as a national project, the 110.625 km Jiribam-Imphal line is considered a vital segment of the Trans-Asian Railway envisaged as an integrated freight railway network across Europe and Asia.
- The broad-gauge project connecting Manipur’s Jiribam, a town on the border with Assam, and State capital Imphal mostly across the fragile hills of Noney district, is expected to reduce the travel time from the existing 10-12 hours to three hours.
- The railways have tagged this project, expected to be functional by December 2023, as its most ambitious and challenging endeavour.
- The project involves 46 tunnels with a total length of 61.398 km, 16 road overbridges and under-bridges, and 140 major and minor rail bridges.
- Tunnel number 12 on this line is India’s longest railway tunnel at 11.55 km and one of the rail bridges near Noney is being built at a pier height of 141 metres, the world’s tallest.
- The Railways have apparently blamed two successive disasters along project sites in the northeast on the traditional practice of jhum or shifting cultivation.
- The first was the Lumding-Silchar railway, which was breached at 58 locations and the second was the Jiribam-Imphal section.
- Jhum is practised on hill slopes by clearing vegetation. Northeast Frontier Railway officials have been quoted as stating that their pleas to the State governments to stop jhum cultivation near railway formations often go unheard.
- Attributing the Noney landslide to jhum was unfortunate as shifting cultivation and landslides have always been a feature in the northeast, a Himalayan region.
- There are also established State rules that forbid jhum in given areas and it is the responsibility of the administration to ensure that such rules are enforced.
People tend to forget or not question the development models being implemented in such fragile hill or mountain ecosystems.
Most disasters are man-made as the designs are not suited to the geology.
Projects do not factor in climate change, which has been causing short bursts of heavy rainfall over a small area instead of moderate showers spread over a larger area.
Suggestions to avert Disasters in future:
- In India, the mountainous and hilly areas in 16 States and in two Union Territories in the Himalayan region, sub-Himalayan parts of the northeast and in the Western Ghats are landslide-prone. These areas comprise about 12.6% or 4.2 lakh sq. km of India’s landmass spreading over 159 districts.
- Disasters and human fatalities can be minimised if its national landslide susceptibility mapping is integrated with infrastructure development and planning in hilly or mountainous terrain.
- The structural measures involve engineering works for stabilisation and control of landslides while non-structural measures emphasise the identification and avoidance of landslide-prone areas through monitoring and warning systems.
- Successes of structural measures include Varunabhat in Uttarkashi, Tindharia in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district and some hydroelectric projects under construction. Nainital in Uttarakhand and Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu are the only two places in India where non-structural measures have been successfully implemented through landslide hazard zoning information.
Increasing human interference with nature has led to a rise in the number of natural disasters.However, the National Disaster Response Force under The Disaster Management Act, 2005 have conducted several successful rescue operations by providing aid and assistance to the affected state, including deploying, at the State’s request, of Armed Forces, Central Paramilitary Forces, and such communication, air and other assets. They have also worked to increase the awareness among people to reduce the effect of such natural calamities by organising preparedness campaigns.
~Source The Hindu
Syllabus: GS III Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
- Will new penalties on environment violations soften the blow for air, water and land polluters?Discuss
The Environment Ministry has proposed legislation which scales down punishment for some environmental violations. Stakeholders citizens, State governments, Union Territories and others concerned have time to respond with suggestions.
The EPA establishes the “framework for studying, planning, and implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and laying down a system of speedy and adequate response to situations threatening the environment.
The Environment Ministry has proposed amendments in four key legislations:
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Public Liability Insurance (PLI) Act, 1991.
- These are the cornerstone environmental laws that led to the setting up of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), empowering it to take action against individuals and corporate bodies who pollute air, water and land.
- The clutch of laws currently empowers the CPCB to either shut down a polluting industrial body or imprison executives of an organisation found to be environmental violators.
- Suggestions” to decriminalise existing provisions of the EPA to weed out “fear of imprisonment for simple violations.
- With a set of amendments, the Environment Ministry proposes to modify provisions of the Environment Protection Act (EPA), by replacing clauses that provide for imprisonment with ones that only require violators to pay a fine. These, however, don’t apply to violations that cause grave injury or loss of life.
The EPA currently says that violators face imprisonment up to five years or a fine up to ₹1 lakh or both. If the violations continue, an additional fine of up to ₹5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction may be levied. There’s also a provision for the jail term to extend to seven years.
The changes proposed include the appointment of an ‘adjudication officer’ who will decide on the penalty in cases of environmental violations such as reports not being submitted or information not provided when demanded.
Funds collected as penalties would be accrued in an “Environmental Protection Fund.” In case of contraventions of the Act, the penalties could extend to anywhere from five lakh to five crore, the proposal notes, but the clause on provision of a jail term for the first default has been sought to be removed.
Proposed amendment impacts :
- The Environment Ministry hasn’t laid out a clear rationale behind whether these amendments were necessary.
- The history of environmental action and its success in India shows that the current laws have had limited effectiveness.
- An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment found that Indian courts took between 9-33 years to clear a backlog of cases for environmental violations.
- To flag pollution from an industrial unit would mean filing a complaint with the court of the concerned district magistrate, or furnishing evidence to the CPCB which would again have to approach the same institution.
- This would then box the crime in the category of ‘criminal complaints’ that would have to follow a set procedure and was extremely time-consuming.
- In most cases, it was practically impossible to hold a specific individual in an organisation responsible for a specific crime given the burden of proof required.
- The new amendments, thus, potentially made a certain category of crimes ‘civil crimes’ making it easier to hold organisations accountable.
- This was different from cases of crimes such as poaching, or stealing forest produce, where there was always a definite offender who could be apprehended and dealt with by the police.
The proposed changes run the risk of reinforcing the assumption that these losses, whether environmental or health-related, can be compensated for with money.
~Source The Hindu