Sunday, January 8, 2017

Shankaracharyas Never Wanted Lakhs of People Flocking Shrines in Uttarakhand!

Written by ABisht

We often hear reports about receding (in Hindi, "Peechhe Hatna") Himalayan Glaciers in Uttarakhand. What these research backed studies are telling us is simple: Gangotri or Yamnotri Glaciers (in Hindi, "Himnad") and other glaciers were closer to us 30 years ago, than they are today. The glaciers have shortened considerably and you will have to climb more up the mountains to reach them.

It's easy to blame the receding glaciers to Global warming. The blame is not wrong. As Global warming is one of the key factors. But we humans, the people of Uttarakhand and the people of the country have contributed a lot to this global warming and other factors which lead to ecological imbalance.

The heights up to which people and vehicles are reaching the Himalayan Mountains today, on the name of faith, tourism, adventure or site seeing, is unprecedented. The Himalayan mountains are not made to sustain that much crowd. It's not a comment on peoples' faith, but it's important to understand that when the Shankaracharyas, the Hindu Religious leaders of old times built these shrines on the periphery of snowline, they didn't have a clue that one day so many people will be flocking these shrines not only in their vehicles but also round the year. In addition they wanted the devotees to go through an arduous journey to reach the shrines.

Hence today is the right time to relocate the shrines to lower heights. Else the glaciers making some of the biggest perennial rivers of the country will simply die down. Nothing will be more unfortunate than that. Taking trains or creating all weather roads up to snowline is a sure sign of disaster.

Many among us will disagree with the above assessment. They may try to argue on the name of faith or development. But like it or not, winning argument is not the goal here. The situation is indeed bleak. Hence there's a need to devise better development models.

To conclude, let I share with you a recent study from USA. It will help us see the Himalayan ecosystem in Uttarakhand in a broader canvas.

According to a new study documenting mortality of yellow cedar trees (Devdar specie) in Alaska region of USA and British Columbia, the future is gloomy for the species. Lead author Brian Buma of the University of Alaska Southeast, the study recorded death due to root freeze on 7 percent of the tree’s range. Researchers say additional death is likely over the next 50 years as the climate warms. The reason being cited is the lack of an insulating blanket of snow, resulting in freezing of the soil deeper down, killing yellow cedar’s shallow roots.

The study says that although the cedar tress will adjust themselves to more rainfall situations, the study does note the vanishing snow blanket.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Insufficient Funds NOT Uttarakhand CM's Headache | BJP Dehradun Rally

Written by ABisht

In yesterday's BJP Rally in Dehradun, party leader Shri Narendra Modi said many things. You may be amused and may be angry as to why this article doesn't address him as 'PM Narendra Modi'. The primary reason is that whenever he addresses the people of India from the dais in such rallies, he appears more like a party man and less like a PM.

Take for instance, yesterday's rally. He said many things. But one thing which didn't suit his stature as PM was the one which attacked the latest projects announced & executive decisions made by the Uttarakhand CM. The PM tried to link these projects and executive decisions a non-serious ones. If the words summarize to the closest accuracy then he said this -- "Such stones installed everywhere (foundation stones) mean nothing as one needs funds to implement the projects!". I will not use the word mock here, but even if one uses the word, it will not be inappropriate. 

Rather than commenting on all the projects and executive decisions made by the State CM, the PM should have either remained silent on them or should have commented on those announcements which he found unworthy of implementation. As a PM he can't say the CM must have funds to implement them. Because at the end of the day, it's the Union Government who's responsible for providing bear-share of funds to the state. Hence as a PM of India, Mr. Modi cannot mock a state Government for not having insufficient funds.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Nothing wrong in Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat facing CBI

Written by ABisht

According to reports, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat ia likely to appear before CBI today, He will be questioned in connection with a probe into the sting CD Operation case involving him. The Hon'ble Uttarakhand High Court has put aside Rawat's plea seeking a stay on his appearance before CBI.

This is the second time Rawat has been summoned by the CBI on a Preliminary Enquiry registered by it. Notably, he had appeared before the agency when the Agency summoned him the first time on May 24. So this is the second time he would be facing the Agency.

It will be good if the CM faces the CBI every time it wants him to. It's better to face the inquiry and come clean. It's better than avoiding such situations. 

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Forest Fires in Uttarakhand show steep increase in 2016

Written by ABisht

Forest fires are not uncommon in Uttarakhand. In addition to natural factors such as friction between dried leaves and twigs caused by natural factors, the forest fires in Uttarakhand are also caused by the deliberate actions of people. These deliberate actions are aimed at clearing forest lands for more and better forage (in Hindi 'Chara') in forest and Panchayati lands. There are some other factors in play as well. For instance, large proliferation of Chir forests (Chir pine needles — which are inflammable due to their high-resin content); and increased inflow of tourists in the State.

A Parliamentary Sanding Committee on Science and Technology, headed by Rajya Sabha MP Renuka Choudhary, in its report submitted on December 16, 2016 says that fires in the Himalayan forests spread across Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir saw a steep rise in forest fores in 2016.

The forest fires in Central Indian forests and the Himalayan Pine forests, have seen a drastic 55 per cent increase in the past year. This is steep rise, as even for drought year 2015, the year on year increase was 16 percent.
The number has touched 24,817 in 2016, a “really alarming” rise, from around 15,937 fires in 2015.

The situation is alarming and the Committe thus recommends a national policy on managing forest fires.

Data for pan India paints an even drastic picture 

The three central States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh contribute a third of the forest fires.  
Madhya Pradesh has seen a nearly ten-fold increase, from just 294 in 2015 to more than 2,600 in 2016. 
Forest Fires in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in 2016
In the forest fires in 13 districts or Uttarakhand this year, about 4,000 hectares of forest land got wiped off of forests.
In Himachal and Uttarakhand, over 17,502 acres have been ravaged this year due to forest fires — a rise of over 171 per cent. 

What the Committee report  on Forest Fires 2016 recommends

  • Clearing pines to save forests

Let's hope that a big expert panel with no direct political affiliations were instrumental in making the report. As far as Pine forests are concerned then they also play a role in Himalayan ecosystem. They help prevent soil erosion and land slides. That's why you will see pine trees alongside Himalayan roads. They can can survive the harshest of conditions present. Hence, if nothing survives, even at those places Pines can.

So what is the meaning of Clearing of Pines? Pines may not be helpful in water logging to conserving, the way Devdar (Himalayan Cedar) is; but still they have some role to play.

Although the Report believes accumulated Chir pine needles as a “prominent factor in occurring and spreading of forest fires”, to what extent this can be said only an expert on Himalayan Ecology can tell.

The Uttarakhand government has made a recommendation to deduce the density of Pine in Pine reserve forest areas. This is very similar to the suggestion made in the report, which recommends replacing these forests with “broad-leaf” plants. The report also recommends procurement of sweeping machines to clear roadsides of Chir pine needles, and link collection of Chir Pine needles and pines with large scale initiatives and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, NREGA.

another key recommendation is to employ more people to safeguard forests from sabotage and procure more fire fighting equipment.

What seems missing

The local touch. The report seems to be recommending solutions without having a broader knowledge of Himalayan Ecology. Forests are not proliferated and contained with one measure or the other. Protecting forests means preserving forests with its natural ecosystem. This surely means looking back at History and studying what Uttarakhand Forests and its flora & fauna looked like 100 years ago. This cannot be done without having seasoned, erudite experts into picture -- the experts who not only know Himalayan Ecology but also Uttarakhand Culture & History.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Work Break to Muslims For Friday Prayers and demanding Vote on Faith

Written by ABisht

On Saturday, the Uttarakhand Government Cabinet meet headed by Chief Minister Harish Rawat decided that a special break be given to employees from Muslim community from 12:30 to 2 pm for offering Friday prayers (Actually it will be 30 minutes break, as an hour lunch break is already there between 1-2 PM).

As expected the first question which landed over the Harish Rawat led Congress Government in Uttarakhand came from BJP National spokesperson Nalin Kohli, who said: "What if Hindu community says it needs two hour break for Shiv Puja on Monday or on Tuesday for lord Hanuman?”

Actually Hindus can also ask for such breaks. But the problem is the multitudes of Gods and Goddesses and Gods of every form in Hindu religion. If you see, even Mr. Kohli was not able to name one Puja break or one single day a week.

Arguments apart, we all know the assembly elections in Uttarakhand are down the corner. This means many of these decisions will be seen as partial or illogical. But on the very face value, the decision doesn't seem to directly ask for votes on the name of faith. A more objectionable and direct demand is often made by the BJP, when it says: If you bring us to power, we will create a magnificent Ram Mandir at Ayodhya!

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