Acting on a Supreme Court order, the ministry of environment and forests has constituted an expert committee to make a detailed study whether the environmental degradation caused by hydroelectric power projects (existing ones and those under construction) in the river basins of Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and their tributaries had led to the disaster in Uttarakhand in June.
The 17-member panel has also been asked to draft a "Himalayan Policy for Uttarakhand" — first of its kind for the region, keeping in mind the unique ecological, social and cultural characteristics of the hill state — and suggest environment-friendly development activities.
Read more : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/developmental-issues/Panel-to-study-impact-of-hydel-projects-on-Uttarakhands-ecology/articleshow/24401849.cms
Urgent need to protect the Himalayan region and its communities
To: Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change (CC Prime Minister)
Dear Minister for MoEFCC,
How many disasters will it take for you to realize that our greatest heritage, the Himalayas, are in trouble, deep trouble?
“We got our homes and this land, the forests and all natural resources from our ancestors. We have to respect that and pass it on as it is, as we got it, to our children.” This was spoken not by any of our current leaders but a simple Sarpanch of a village in Uttrakhand in the Himalayas. He and his people know what your leadership seems to have failed to understand this so far...
As we have all noticed, the incidences of extreme weather events across the earth are rising, and along with it the scale of natural disasters. The Himalayan and the downstream region which are dependent on its water systems are particularly vulnerable to these effects of climate change. The Uttarakhand disaster is just one incidence of the changing weather pattern and a warning sign of many more to come. But instead of understanding and working around this and to protect ourselves, the state governments have gone into a race against each other to be the first one to quicken the pace of environmental, economic and societal damage adding to massive economic and social costs.
There are more than 1000 tunnel based dams and hydro-electric projects either proposed to be built, under construction or completed across all the 11 Himalayan states. Sanctions have been given individually without any thought to the cumulative effect the proposed tunnel based dams will have on an eco-fragile region which is still evolving geographically.
With these ‘Run-of-the-river’ power projects scheduled to be built on all existing rivers, these river systems would no longer flow freely, affecting communities and ecology alike – near the rivers and further downstream.
State governments in their eagerness to become energy rich states have ignored their own communities whose livelihoods depends completely on the natural resources available and live sustainably.
In many states like Uttarakhand, communities have been displaced from their land without any compensation or effective resettlement and rehabilitation schemes.
Scientists, geologists, social activists and voluntary organisations have carried out studies from time to time and have submitted their finding and reports to the government. Wadia Geological Institute, Indian Forest Survey, remote sensing satellites, universities, IIT’s, G.B. Pant Himalayan Environment & Development Institute etc. have extensively studied the Himalayan environment and they have come up with sustainable developmental programmes that may possibly be implemented in these states. All these studies and documents are available with the government planners and policy makers but they have all been either overlooked or have been ignored so far.
There is an urgent need for our leaders is to recognize that the Himalayan region and its people command special attention and hence a separate policy for the region and its people should be drafted urgently.
- A scientific study should be conducted and key areas across the Himalayas should be declared eco-sensitive zones where no infrastructure, power projects, tunnels, unscientific ways of building roads and hotels for tourism should be allowed to be constructed.
- In other areas, Gram Sabhas should be made the sole decision making body to determine the usage of their land and natural resources.
- Forest areas traditionally owned by the communities should be made legal under Community Forest Rights so that the communities can manage and conserve these forests; traditional methods of livelihood, agriculture and animal husbandry should be encouraged and plans for eco-tourism and local village industries implemented.
- Tree plantation as per the unique or local eco-system, fruit tree plantation and micro hydroelectric projects should be made an industry.
Dear Minister, we now urge you to reopen these reports, study them and prepare a separate sustainable development policy for all the Himalayan states which gives priority to its eco-system and its communities. The Himalayas are unique and irreplaceable and it’s in saving the Himalayas and its people that you can save generations to come, not only of our country but the world also.
Update: Our action plan – On Feb 2nd 2015, 24 citizens of various Himalayan states will set out for a second Yatra from Haridwar to Gangasagar in West Bengal, covering a distance of more than 2000 kms (Yatra 1 was Gangotri to Haridwar, Oct’14). We’ll raise awareness, collect people’s signatures, and hold 50 meetings with communities across various states.
Note: The petition was earlier targeted at the then Minister for Environment, Ms. Jayanthi Natrajan. With the change in the government, the petition has been updated to reflect the same. We have also added the Prime Minister, considering the gravity and urgency of the situation.
Why is this important?
1. The Himalayas are not just a mere range of mountains, but the source of our very existence and survival. They are the source of some of the largest river-systems and basins in the world, which provides our country with 60% of its water requirement.
2. Himalayan region contains the great Indo-Gangetic alluvial plain which is known as the ‘grain basket of South Asia’. Their thick forests have been able to reduce carbon emissions by over 20%, being a key factor in mitigating and controlling climate change.
3. Himalayas is the reason why we have been getting our bountiful monsoons every year on which the survival of the rest of India depends. It is home to several unique flora and fauna including aquatic life like the Gangetic Dolphins which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
4. Himalayan region contains states of diverse cultures and communities. This is one of the few places where culturally diverse communities live with their lives and livelihood intricately woven with nature.The Himalayas is the crown beauty of our nation and gives us Indians our spiritual strength.
1,000 signatures reached
Supreme Court places ban on environmental clearance for hydro projects in Uttarakhand
Stop clearances to Uttarakhand dams, Supreme Court to centre:
500 signatures reached
Where do we draw the line and say it is enough?
- Blog post by Bipasha Majumder
100 signatures reached
50 signatures reached
25 signatures reached
10 signatures reached
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