60 environmental groups oppose mega infra projects in Himalayas

Subhasish Mitra (Wide Angle)

More than 60 environmental and social organisations in the country have demanded a complete ban on all mega infrastructure projects related to the railways, dams, hydro-projects and four-lane highways in the Himalayas.


They have raised their concern at a significant time when Lok Sabha election process is underway in the country.


These groups have demanded that referendums and public consultations should be made compulsory for all development projects.


At a digital press conference, the organisations, jointly leading the "People for Himalaya" campaign, issued a five-point charter of demands for all political parties for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.


They called for a complete moratorium on all mega infrastructure projects, including those related to the railways, dams, hydro projects, tunneling, transmission lines and four-lane highways, along with a comprehensive multidisciplinary review of the impacts of the existing projects.


The organisations demanded that democratic decision-making through referendums and public consultations be made compulsory for large infrastructure projects.


They sought strengthening of Environment Impact Assessment Notification-1994, the scrapping of the EIA-2020 amendments and FCA-2023 amendments, and free prior informed consent of gram sabhas for all development projects.


At the the press conference, climate activist Sonam Wangchuk said, "While industries exploit the riches of the Himalayas, the local people bear the brunt of disasters. The government uses taxpayers' money for rehabilitation efforts, yet those who reap the benefits are not held accountable."


Wangchuk, who recently went on a 21-day fast to demand that Ladakh be included under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, said, "Bureaucrats from Chandigarh or Lucknow may not fully understand the fragility of the region. The best of all could also make mistakes and the worst of all would sell it off to industries."


Mohan Saikia from the Northeast Dialogue Forum warned of severe ecological impacts of massive hydropower development proposed on the Brahmaputra river and its basins, without the consent of the local indigenous communities. "The far-reaching impact of these infrastructure projects is manifested in the form of floods," Saikia said.


Guman Singh from the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and Atul Sati of the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti said the Beas floods and the land subsidence in Joshimath are "man-made, policy-led disasters".


Vimla Vishwapremi of the Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh said pastoralists, landless Dalits and women, who contribute the least to these policy disasters and the climate crisis, are the worst hit. "They remain invisible and lack support when it comes to rebuilding their lives," she said.


Anmol Ohri from the Climate Front Jammu warned that mindless pilgrim tourism, road construction in glacial regions and riverfront development projects will increase the risk of floods in the region.


The organisations also demanded that state laws and regulations, such as the Van Panchayat Rules in Uttarakhand, which protect the private and community resource rights of nature-dependent communities, be strengthened.


They emphasised that gram sabhas, panchayats and municipal bodies be involved in disaster governance through regular sharing of information on the latest risk studies and consultations on climate adaptation strategies, disaster risk mitigation and the work carried out under the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.



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