Are Natural Disasters Man made?

Geographically, disasters can be technically classified into two categories: namely, natural disasters and man-made natural disasters. Man made disasters are always far worse than natural disasters. With the advent of science, various scientific experiments especially nuclear tests and human follies like oil spills, fire hazards, gas leaks along with the much discussed global warming has heavily skewed the balance of the ecosystem. Very soon we will reach a stage where the line between natural and man-made natural disasters will be blurred forever.

Man Made Disasters History

Cited below are a few examples of history’s worst man-made natural disasters. The London smog of 1952 that took a death toll of 12000 people was, in fact, a man-made natural disaster. Unusually cold weather compounded with a windless condition had coated the heavily polluted city with a dense fog. The residents in order to get respite from the cold shoveled in more coal in the furnaces alarmingly aggravating the already excess pollution. The city was literally asphyxiated, turning the whole event into a man-made natural disaster. According to the scientists, Hurricane Katrina, the greatest natural disaster to hit the United States in recent times got its extra power to turn into a full scale catastrophe from the increase in the global temperature. The same logic applies to the heat wave that scorched Russia in 2010, claiming 56000 lives. The extreme weather was undoubtedly fuelled by the rising global temperatures. However, the most recent example is the calamity in Uttarakhand, which claimed more than 10,000 lives. As Uttarakhand tries to lurch out of one of the biggest catastrophes of the recent years, the issue of another man-made natural disaster becomes more prominent. In fact, it was a disaster waiting just around the corner. There is a ban on building anything within 100 meters of the river beds since 2002. The 100 meter stretch from Gangotri to Uttarkashi was declared as an “eco-sensitive zone” by the Central Government in 2012 which meant a strict prohibition of any kind of development in this zone. However, such warnings were never taken seriously. Settlements like buildings, dams, and roads have been built recklessly right next to the rivers as a direct violation of the 2002 and the 2012 prohibitions. Such encroachment in the environmentally fragile areas naturally aggravated the torrential rain in Uttarakhand. Expansion of hydro-power projects, mining activities and road constructions further contributed to this man-made catastrophe. The Himalayas is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world and was relatively stable until the plundering of the mountain started with unplanned constructions of road to accommodate the ever increasing traffic and expansion of hydro-power projects that involves dam construction on the hills to block the paths of the rivers. The torrential rain wreaked havoc on the poor and unstable top soil of the steep mountain slopes bringing the mountain down in the form of massive landslides and flash floods. The tragedy of Uttarakhand could have been averted if stricter regulations were imposed on constructions that are completely unsupported by the bio-diversity of this region. As the rescue operations are progressing to extract the survivors of the disaster, the full impact of the catastrophe is still unknown. Natural disasters will continue to exist, but when human follies turn a natural disaster into a man-made disaster, the destruction and loss in human lives increases ten fold. If we don’t stop encroachment into the environmentally fragile areas a day will soon come when “there will be no such thing as a natural disaster anymore.”

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