Sustainable development of Himalayan region needed

New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) The Uttarakhand disaster has propelled a need for a policy towards more sustainable development of the Himalayan region, Cabinet Secretary Ajit K. Seth said Friday.

Seth was speaking on "Rescue Operations in Uttarakhand" at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) here.

Talking about the lessons learnt from the disaster, he said a National Crisis Management Committee headed by him has decided to map the extent of devastation.

The panel will also categorise all the 127 glacial lakes in that area on the basis of risks they pose.

The committee will also prepare a damage extent report and make actionable recommendations, he promised.

Hundreds -- probably thousands -- were killed when cloudbursts and landslides in the Kedarnath region caused widespread death and destruction during pilgrimage season.

Thousands are still missing, and presumed dead.

The government is also considering pre-positioning Air Traffic Fuel at certain places, he added.

Seth suggested the need to revamp the Disaster Management Legislation. He agreed that apart from having a more accurate system for weather prediction, tourism in the hills also needed to be regulated.

He spoke of better infrastructure, like roads bridges, along with an alternate system of communications to handle such crises in the mountains.

He said that the government was also looking into the hydro electricity dam policy in the region.

The cabinet secretary laid stress on the importance of involving local people of the region while organising any relief work and being respectful towards their cultural sensitivities.

Seth defended the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMA), saying that though there was room for improvement, it was incorrect to say that NDMA had failed to perform its duties.

He said there was a plan to locate an National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) battalion in Haridwar in Uttarakhand. NDRF teams would be located in the Garhwal and Kumaun regions too.

Terming the Uttarakhand tragedy as "sudden episodic event", Seth expressed satisfaction over how the various government agencies came together for the rescue work.

The army deployed 3,000 soldiers and 12 helicopters that along with over many helicopters provided by the air force and private agencies evacuated more than 38,000 people stranded in the Kedarnath valley, he said. A

Matches