Being a kid, I used to be terrified watching videos of floods in the northern plains of the country, and my mom used to assure me that mountains are exempted from floods, we can have earthquakes, landslides but floods, they are out of question and I believed her till 6 days ago when all those myths were broken by a tragic catastrophe in our state. None of us, neither me nor my parents have ever seen something like this, a disaster of such a large scale when four of our districts are washed away in the water of our own holy rivers. The place which used to be a pilgrimage for millions of devotees around the world has turned into their burial ground.
Thousands have lost their lives and more than 50,000 remain stranded waiting to be rescued. The videos in television seem to be from a Hollywood movie, something we witness in those end of the world films. The local newspapers are filled with heart wrenching stories of people, a couple who saw all three of their children wash away right in front of their eyes, a family who has lost 9 of its members, a husband whose wife was washed away from 2 stairs below him, stories of loss, tragedy, damage. There is nothing left except debris and dead bodies in the land of Gods.
And it hurts me, to witness this tragedy, to see the level of destruction, the amount of lives lost. And more than being angry, frustrated, sad, I am scared, because I don’t know when I’ll have to encounter something like this, I fear that someday I’ll see my own hometown in ruins. Pithoragarh, where several lives have been lost, and several villages have been washed away even this time, may have to encounter something bigger like the floods in Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag. Because I’ve seen it grow from a small town with few houses to an over populated region, filled with hotels, multistory buildings, tourist spots and what not. I’ve seen the declining forest ranges, the burnt jungles, the encroached lands, and I fear that my own place is inviting nature’s fury, something yet to be seen. Having spent my childhood there, being a pahaadi, I can’t ignore it anymore.
Who is responsible for this? Was it nature’s way to revenge the damage man has done to it? Was it the result of excessive encroachment, illegal constructions and commercialization of pilgrimages and tourist places? Each one of us is responsible for this destruction. Every time we overuse our natural resources we must take the blame of a life lost. We have disturbed the ecosystem and so the same ecosystem is keen on destroying us. For it is taking revenge- the hotels and houses we made on the banks of rivers are taken away with it, the roads we built encroaching mountains are damaged by the same, are all washed away, we cleared forests to built dams, bridges, so, rivers have cleared all those constructions. We commercialized God, temples, we made different queues for poor and the rich, but with this tragedy, God has shown that each one of us meets the same end either rich or poor, there is no discrimination in His place, neither do we bring anything with us to this world, nor do we take away anything with us.
With more than 5000 people presumed to be dead this is going to be one of the worst disasters of our country. Nearly 50,000 people are still stranded and with warnings of fresh rains, the rescue operations are only going to be hindered. We all need your prayers and your help. Pray for our people, our mountains, the Land of Gods. You can also make donations to the Prime Minister’s National relief fund here. This is the least we can do.