Switching from Android to iPhone made super easy, thanks to AppleIBTimes IN
Switching from Android to iPhone made super easy, thanks to AppleIBTimes IN

Himachal Pradesh has been ravaged by rains in the past few days; a clear sign of what happens when the often all-forgiving nature decides to avenge the destruction that has been happening, in the name of development.

Rains Claim 17 Lives, Property Over Rs 3,000 Crore Damaged: Himachal CM
Representative imageIANS

The hilly state of North-India has seen massive destruction of infrastructure, properties and human life due to torrential rainfall in the last few days. The death toll from accidents related to rain, landslides and collapsed buildings rose to 72 on Thursday and 74 on Friday.

Among these fatalities, 21 occurred due to major landslides in Shimla, which includes a Shiva temple in Summer Hill. While one body was found in the debris of the temple on August 17, there were concerns about eight more individuals still potentially buried under the collapsed temple's wreckage.

It's high-time for urgent action, drastic policy changes and intensive damage repair. However challenging it may be to undo the damage, the state of Himachal doesn't seem to have much choice or many options in the matter, opine experts. State Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, who came to power in December last year, blamed the construction workers from Bihar and the type of floor-by-floor construction without any civic regulations.

Receiving flak for his comments on "Bihari migrant construction workers" on Thursday, the CM issued a clarification to the media houses, "I did not say anything as such. The people of Bihar were also stuck here. I got them evacuated by helicopters. Around 200 people from Bihar are still stuck here. They are like our brothers. It is the fault of our structural engineers, they are just labourers."

Why Shimla needs special attention?

Shimla, one of the worst affected districts in the state, has seen unprecedented and unchecked construction activity. Many regulatory bodies in the past have flagged off their concerns about the indiscriminate development in the capital posing a serious threat to environment and ecology.


'The river didn't enter homes, the homes entered the river'

Apart from the triggered landslides and collapsed structures, heavy rains highlighted a few things; that there is complete lack of structural designing and the state can't afford any more policy indiscrimination.

Blaming lack of structural designing in Shimla, CM Sukhu, said that, "Himachal will take a year to rebuild the infrastructure wrecked by the heavy rains." In an interview to PTI, he further said that the estimated damage in just two devastating spells of rain in the past week, is to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore and now the immediate need is to rebuild roads and water projects.

"We have to get the infrastructure fully restored within a year. I am working with this in mind. It's a big challenge, a mountain-like challenge. But we are not going to back away." Sharing his vision for the state, he also claimed that he will make the state self-reliant in four years and most prosperous in 10. "But it will take a year for us to rise from the tragedy."

He added, "Buildings obstruct the natural course of water flow at places, and there is little attention paid to designing structures. The river didn't enter homes, the homes entered the river."

During the interview, the chief minister indicated there would be new guidelines and tougher implementation of building rules. He cited issues like proper drainage, studying the soil on which buildings are being constructed, and consideration of weight-bearing capacity of floors.

What's next?

Meanwhile, on August 22, a Supreme Court Bench, led by Justice BR Gavai is likely to look into the matter and examine the Draft Shimla Development Plan notified by the government last month.

Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh SukhuImage@sukhusukhvinder

Draft Shimla Development Plan was notified in June this year by the current Himachal Pradesh government and aims to regulate construction in the state's capital with respect to number of floors, habitable attic, garage, open area etc.

Last year in October, the NGT (National Green Tribunal) had stayed the Shimla Development Plan approved by the previous government in February 2022 terming it illegal and in contradiction to earlier orders passed to check unregulated construction. The state government had challenged the order before HC from where it was transferred to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, in one of the policy decisions, the CM said, "It will be made mandatory to make drainage and cross drainage in all the roads to be constrcuted in the state. A high level committee and monitoring teams will also be constituted to monitor this. Roads get damaged due to lack of drainage and cross drainage. Roads which do not have drainage at the time of construction will not be passed." If only the proverbial stitch in time came, it would have saved more than nine now.