As the government scrambles to complete a haphazard rescue operation, environmentalists are taking a step back, pointing out that the disaster was not simply a freak natural hazard but a result of unbridled development in the Land of the Gods.
For years, a booming tourist industry, made possible by thousands of illegally constructed guesthouses, has spawned massive hydroelectric power projects on the rivers, while other infrastructure development designed to accommodate hoards of visitors has proceeded at a steady clip, putting undue stress on this fragile ecological zone.
Scientists also say the damming of the Ganga, riverbed encroachment and mining activities are wreaking havoc on the region.
“There (have been) no credible environmental or social impact assessments for hundreds of projects,” Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, tells IPS.
According to Mallika Bhanot, member of Ganga Ahvaan, a public forum to save the holy river, about 244 dams are being constructed along the water channel, while only three were cancelled after a 100-km stretch, from the glacial mouth of Gomukh to Uttarkashi town, was declared an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) in December 2012.