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Davos to Uttarakhand: the unmistakable message

THOUGHTSCOPE: Khurshid Ahmad Ganai

Uttrakhand glacier break not a freak event but another wake up call: Kashmir needs to be careful

Yesterday’s news about glacier break in Chamoli district of Uttrakhand and the devastation due to the resultant flooding in river Alaknanda has made the prospect of such future disasters in the Himalayan region of north India a distinct possibility. Also because it was only one and a half years back in June 2019 that the results of a study on Himalayan glaciers carried out by a team of researchers led by Joshua Maurer of Columbia university’s Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory revealed that the melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled since the turn of the century with more than a quarter of all ice lost over the last four decades. The study concluded that ‘such rapid loss indicated a devastating future for the region upon which a billion people depend for regular water.’ The analysis showed that ‘ 8 billion tonnes of ice are being lost every year and not being replaced by snow’ and that this was due to global heating caused by unrelenting human activities.

That the glacier break of the kind seen in Chamoli is also a result of heavy melting of glaciers is not difficult to comprehend. A formal explanation for the glacier break is awaited but it is no rocket science to understand that when glaciers melt so heavily, they could also crack and break and slide like huge avalanches into the waiting river down below doing what it did in Alaknanda, causing huge damage to the infrastructure raised on the river and also resulting in deaths and destruction of property.

Jammu and Kashmir is part of the Himalayan region and surely the Columbia university led study has included the glaciers located in the mountains around the erstwhile state. Of particular concern would be the glaciers feeding river Lidder in Pahalgam, Sindh in Sonamarg, Kishanganga in Gurez-Tulail valley, Indus in Leh, Zanskar in Kargil and Chenab in the erstwhile district of Doda in Jammu division; Lidder and Sindh ultimately emptying into river Jhelum. All the infrastructure, public and private located on these rivers and waterways could be facing an existential threat due to possible breaking of the feeding glaciers. Therefore, the government authorities and the civil society both need to wake up to the possible danger from breaking of rapidly melting glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and take whatever necessary action needs to be taken as per the advice of the experts. On their part the experts need to undertake a serious appraisal of the problem to understand its urgency, gravity and the extent.

World Economic Forum (WEF) 2021: Its Global Risk Report and call for the ‘Great Reset’ is a huge wake up call for the whole world and there is cause for worry and corrective action

This year the WEF Davos conference was held in virtual mode with many heads of state addressing it virtually. It released the Global Risk Report 2021 which again listed the climate change and environmental issues as the most likely threats and highest by impact after infectious diseases. By likelihood, the risk report lists extreme weather, climate action failure, human environmental damage, infectious diseases, biodiversity loss, digital power concentration, digital inequality, interstate relations fracture, cyber security failure and livelihood crisis as the top eight risks in that order and by impact, the report lists infectious diseases, climate action failure, weapons of mass destruction, biodiversity loss, natural resources crisis, human environmental damage, livelihood crisis and extreme weather as the top eight risks. Other risks included in the risk report in addition to the above risks are involuntary migration, adverse technological advances, social cohesion erosion, debt crisis, assets bubbles burst, youth disillusionment, social security collapse, multilateralism collapse and resource geopoliticisation.

But the defining feature of WEF 2021 is the appeal for a global reset of capitalism in the wake of Covid pandemic. It says that ‘affluence is the biggest threat to our world, overconsumption is environmentally unsustainable, that there is an environmental ceiling to consumption and that true sustainability will only be achieved through drastic life style changes.’ It further says that sustainable life styles will lay a strong foundation for a world free of ‘socially unsustainable’ poverty and hunger and where there is ‘safe and just space for humanity.’

The great reset vision, according to Klaus Schwab, the CEO of WEF, includes creating a stakeholder economy where market pursues fairer outcomes for all, underpinned by changes to tax, regulatory and fiscal policies and new trade arrangements. Schwab also calls for investments that advance shared goals such as equality and sustainability and points out the economic stimulus programme as one such initiative. He urges addressing health and social challenges with the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and public–private collaboration in pursuit of public good.

The great reset vision of WEF 2021 echoes the sentiment expressed by the UN Secretary General on the eve of the world environment day in 2020. He had said, ‘ to care for humanity, we must care for nature.’ He had also said that ‘the planet is facing a tipping point and as we build back better, let us put nature where it belongs- at the heart of our decision making.’

Visionary statements make great headlines and warm the human heart. If anything, action by individual countries and citizens in the past has been marked more by acting in breach rather than by rule. We can only pray that the Global Risks Report of WEF 2021 and the appeal for the ‘Great Reset’ are considered seriously by the world leaders and made the underpinning foundation for an altered world which the new American President Joe Biden has also promised. And his decision for the US to rejoin the climate change talks and the international body is certainly a good starting point.


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