MUMBAI: As the world grapples with climate change and methods to tackle natural and man-induced disasters, the role of science should be to provide a balance between development and nature, opined experts at the ongoing Indian Science Congress here on Tuesday.
Dhruv Sen Singh, Professor of Geology, Centre of Advanced study in Geology, University of Lucknow in his paper 'Impact of climate change on glaciers and its consequences on society' said earthquakes, floods and tsunami cannot be controlled but the damage can be minimised.
"We have to think of sustainable development and it is our fundamental duty to preserve the planet earth and keep it clean and green," he said.
Singh said the cloud burst in Uttarakhand in 2013 was a natural phenomenon but the tragedy was because of unplanned settlement and increasing population along the river bank.
"Human settlement among the river valley leads to lateral erosion during low discharge period as well as high discharge period. There is tremendous pressure of population on the land in India as there is 2.4 per cent of land for 17 per cent of population," he said.
Singh also said climate change is natural and not just man-made.
"Glaciers were melting even before the existence of human beings. It was a phenomenon even during the Gondvana period when no man existed on planet earth, which is 4.6 billion-years-old.
"Nature also has a role in appearance and disappearance of glaciers. Climate Change has occurred many times before appearance of man. Evolution of man is a recent phenomenon,"
Singh said cretaceous period in the Mesozoic era which was 65 million years ago was the hottest, sea level was maximum and there were no glaciers. There was increase in percentage of carbon dioxide resulting in the disappearance of flora and fauna. These were all natural causes.
The academician added that nature also has a role to play in appearance and disappearance of glaciers.
At another session on 'Use of technology for disaster reduction-Indian context', Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Science said the need of the hour was to assess vulnerability of coastal areas, changing climate and rising sea levels compounding problems on the coast.
Nayak said technology needs to be addressed at three levels for disaster management namely earth system level to propagate knowledge of the impending hazards, social system or governance for addressing disaster-related issues and a human system.
"All three are linked to each other and helps in resilience to natural hazards. If one does not function, there will be disasters despite warnings," he said.
N P Kurien, Director of National Centre for Earth Science studies, Thiruvanthapuram, speaking on technology for coastal disaster risk reduction, stressed the need for sustainable coastal development and improve understanding of how changing weather and sea level rise will impact coastal communities and coastal systems.
He said 1380-km of Indian coast faces serious impact of coastal erosion and an annual loss of Rs 575 crore.
S S Thigale, former head of Geology department, University of Pune in his paper on 'Technology for awareness and preparedness processes in disastrous areas' said prediction status is still a mystery for earthquakes and tsunamis. But despite predictions for cyclonic floods and landslides, deaths still occur.
Giving an example of last year's Malin landslide tragedy where more than 150 people died, Thigale said symptoms were seen since 2003 where cracks developed on walls of the houses. There was oozing of ground water on sloping land during rainy season but nobody thought of shifting to a safe place. It was the limit of ignorance and total lack of awareness.
He opined that technology can not be effectively used if there is failure of end-users to take ownership of the new technology.
"Technology transfer is not a one-way process. The challenge is lack of trained human resource to handle sophisticated sensors," he said.
RS-GIS (remote sensing geographic information system) technology can be used to identify disaster areas and also plan rehabilitation, Thigale said and stressed the need for involving students in education and long-term planning.
"Scientific vision to prevent landslides is Sanjaydrishti," he said referring to a character in Mahabharat who gives details of the war to Dhritarashtra.