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India bans building along rivers in flood-hit north
by Staff Writers
Dehradun, India (AFP) July 01, 2013

China floods kill 39: state media
Beijing (AFP) July 02, 2013 - Floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain in China have left at least 39 people dead since the weekend, state media reported Tuesday, warning of more downpours to come.

Another 13 people were still missing in nine affected areas, including the southwestern province of Sichuan and Inner Mongolia in the north, the China Daily said, citing the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The National Meteorological Centre had warned that rainstorms would hit parts of the Sichuan Basin, north and northeast China, areas along the Yellow and Huaihe rivers and some western provinces on Monday and Tuesday.

Rumbia, the sixth tropical storm in China this year, was also approaching the coastal provinces of Guangdong and Hainan in the south, it added.

Rumbia brought heavy rain and strong winds to an annual pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on Monday. On Saturday, four children drowned in rough seas churned up by the storm when it passed over the Philippines.

China is prone to rainstorms during spring and summer. Last year 673 people were killed and 159 went missing in floods across the country.

Construction along river banks will be banned in a devastated north Indian state amid concerns unchecked development fuelled last month's flash floods and landslides that killed thousands, the state's top official said Monday.

The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Vijay Bahuguna, also announced that a regulatory body would be set up to scrutinise future construction as the Himalayan state begins the herculean task of rebuilding following the June 15 floods.

"Permission will not be given for any kind of construction along the river banks," Bahuguna told reporters in the state capital Dehradun.

"All guidelines will be strictly followed," he added.

Raging rivers and landslides from torrential rains swept away houses, other buildings and even entire villages in the state known as the "Land of the Gods" for its revered shrines and pilgrimage sites.

Some 1,000 people died in the disaster and more than 3,000 are still missing, Bahuguna said on Sunday, while conceding that the exact death toll may never be known.

A state lawmaker has said the number killed could cross 10,000, as more bodies were recovered from under tonnes of debris and from rivers downstream, but this figure was rejected as "guesswork" by Bahuguna.

Thousands of soldiers, backed by military helicopters, have wound down rescue efforts after evacuating more than 100,000 people stranded when roads and bridges were destroyed.

Environmentalists and aid agencies have said rapid and unregulated development and deforestation was partly to blame for the floods in the state, which attracts thousands of pilgrims and other tourists every year.

Bahuguna announced that the Uttarakhand Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority would be established to spell out guidelines for all development activities in the state, keeping in mind the welfare of its residents for "the next 100 years".

International charity ActionAid said construction of hydroelectric dams and mining projects over the last decade in the state's many valleys threatened its fragile ecosystem.

"This aggressive and unregulated construction work has been playing ecological havoc for years," said Debabrat Patra, ActionAid's regional manager for Uttarakhand.

"With little forest left to hold the earth, another burst of heavy rain could be disastrous for the people living there," he said in a statement.

Top industry body ASSOCHAM said it was time authorities woke up to the huge losses incurred every year from floods as a result of the development of flood plains throughout the country.

"Encroachments into the flood plains over the years have aggravated the problem," it said in a news release.

"While we cannot do much about the natural phenomenon, we have to ensure that the nation remains always prepared for meeting any eventuality that can cause avoidable loss to human lives," ASSOCHAM said.


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