5,000 signatures reached
Urgent need to protect the Himalayan region and its communities
To: Prime Minister, (cc. Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change)
Another disaster has struck the heart of the Himalayas, which only points to the fact that the still evolving mountain ranges are fragile and development plans similar to those in the plains will not work in this region.
The Himalayas are our greatest heritage. They are storehouses of biodiversity and natural resources which have sustained life in the mountains as well as the plains for centuries. Some of the largest river-systems and basins in the world which have sources here provide our country with 60% of its water requirement. It’s 9000 plus glaciers and high altitude lake store about 12000km3 of fresh water. About 1,200,00million m3 of water flow from its rivers every year which sustains the great Indo-Gangetic alluvial plains providing food for the rest of the country. The dense forests have been able to reduce carbon emissions by over 20%, a key factor in mitigating and controlling climate change. The Himalayan region contains states of diverse cultures and communities whose lives and livelihood are intricately woven with these mountains.
The Himalayan states and its people definitely need economic growth, but the planners and policy makers in New Delhi and the state capitals of the Himalayan states should take special care that development and economic growth takes into account the ecology and the fragility of the region. The current spate of rapid urbanisation and indiscriminate construction of roads and dams can lead to short term gains but may cause irreparable damage in future.
Solutions - We propose to relook our current model of development to an alternative model which will ensure the survival of the Himalayas and our future generations.
• Look at alternate sources of energy such and solar and micro hydro power (Sulgaon model)
• 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
• Encourage indigenous knowledge and methods of organic agriculture and animal husbandry; promote and support eco-tourism and local village industries
• Ownership of forests and forest produces to be given to the village communities to safeguard, manage and conserve forests. States can be incentivized or compensated for ecosystem services provided by the standing forests.
• Afforestation as per the unique local flora and fruit tree plantation which will provide alternative source of livelihood to people
• Create policies which will help in sustainable urbanization and reduce its impact like a better urban planning process, garbage and sewage disposal system, strict implementation of construction rules etc.
Why is this important?
• The Himalayas is a sensitive zone prone to natural disasters. Constructions which do not heed the geology of the region will cause massive damage and destruction to lives, livelihood and property during natural calamities which are imminent.
• Heavy deforestation due to construction of dams, roads etc. has started to affect the rich bio-diversity of the region leading to loss of unique flora and fauna. Blasting, dumping of debris, digging and excavation of the mountain side can lead to ecological devastation in the region and drying up of natural springs.
• Numerous dams on rivers will impact aquatic life and also reduce water flow which will impact the lives and livelihood of people and animals downstream not only of our country but our neighbouring country of Bangladesh as well. According to scientists, a reduction of even 10% can dry up huge swathes of farmland in Bangladesh.
• Ecological disturbance in the region can aggravate micro-climatic changes thereby further increasing its impact on people’s lives and livelihood. The impact of climate change have already started to show in the form of warmer climates, less snowfall, erratic rainfall, untimely hail, retreating glaciers, movement of plant species upward, soil erosion etc.
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
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Where do we draw the line and say it is enough?
- Blog post by Bipasha Majumder
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