The ecological destruction, land subsidence and the resulting devastation at the Himalayan township of Joshimath is very sad.
It underlines the need to redraw our priorities and be extremely careful about infrastructure development amid fragile ecosystems.
It is also disappointing to learn that the SC has refused to entertain the plea for declaring Joshimath Subsidence a national disaster.
While the courts may be having their own reasons, they have only highlighted the indifference that we continue to show to urgent matters concerning lakhs of people, their future and the entire ecology they live in.
While the debate continues on whether there is any need to sacrifice ecological balance for mindless development, the fact that the government agencies are more interested in passing a gag order on the media is also troubling.
It is not proper to handle a public matter, especially a disaster, by limiting information and spreading misinformation.
As a means of mitigating the effects of a disaster, modern disaster management strategies emphasize the importance of sharing information with the public.
Keeping information hidden and obstructing the flow of information can actually make disaster management efforts more difficult.
There have been reports of additional cracks and subsidence in Joshimath, and a lack of accurate information will only lead to the spread of rumors and speculation.
The Uttarakhand government has stated that the information ban was imposed to prevent panic, but rumors can cause even more panic than accurate information.
Experts have expressed concerns about the ban’s effectiveness and appropriateness, questioning whether such restrictions are necessary when satellite images from foreign agencies and institutions are available.
It should be remembered that similar information restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic in many countries only exacerbated the situation.
NDMA would do well to withdraw its order in order to avoid the negative consequences of similar bans in the future.