Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri on Thursday asked the Centre to learn lessons from the recent natural calamity in the hill state and demanded a separate ministry for the Himalayan region to preserve its fragile ecology.

“Natural calamities have been happening in Uttarakhand for years but unfortunately we haven’t learnt lessons from them. Damage to the ecology inflicted by deforestation and construction of dams has been the root cause of such a massive disaster.

“It is time the Centre created a separate ministry for the Himalayan region to set the parameters required for striking a balance between the region’s fragile ecology and development,” Mr. Khanduri told reporters in Dehradun on his return from the affected areas via road route.

Opposing construction of mega hydel projects in the region, the BJP leader said Tehri dam was built at the cost of Uttarakhand’s natural resources but other states are benefitting more from the dam.

“Uttarakhand gets only 12 per cent of power from the project which generates 3 crore 20 lakh mw of power every day. What I want to say is that these projects come up at the cost of our ecology and it is we who suffer the most in the end,” he said.

The natural calamity which struck the state recently could not have been prevented perhaps but the massive scale of devastation caused by it across the state could have been minimised if the state government heeded the weatherman’ warnings for June 15, 16 and 17, he said.

“When heavy rains had been predicted on these dates why didn’t the state government stop the pilgrims bound for char Dhams from going beyond Rishikesh, Haridwar and Srinagar. Had it done so the casualties would not have been so huge,” the former chief minister said.

He also asked the Centre and the state government to put in place an advance warning system so that people could be evacuated well in advance from the endangered areas in case of a calamity.

Expressing his gratitude to the commendable job being done by the Army and the para military forces in rescue operations, he said they deserve a pat on the back for what they have done to evacuate thousands of pilgrims.

Mr. Khanduri demanded that besides the tourist, the government should also address the problems being faced by locals in affected areas who have lost their homes and fields to the massive deluge.

The state government should also strengthen the hands of the BRO by providing it enough funds for building new roads and reconstructing the damaged ones as choppers have limited space and they cannot evacuate such a huge number of stranded people through air route, the BJP leader claimed.

The outbreak of an epidemic too looms large over the state in the wake of the tragedy and a strategy needs to be devised at the earliest to combat it, he added.

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