Dilution of green clearance norms threatens Himalayan belt: Environmental bodies write to Centre

Esha Roy | The Indian Express

Environmental bodies in the Himalayan states have written to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, opposing the controversial Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Draft Notification 2020. They said the dilution of various provisions in the EIA, such as reducing time for public hearings or exempting certain projects from public hearings altogether, in addition to the post facto regularisation of violations, will have devastating consequences for the Himalayan belt.

The signatories from Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh have demanded the immediate scrapping of the 2020 draft amendments. The organisations have also written to MPs of their respective states.

Manshi Asher of the Himachal Pradesh-based Himdhara Environ-mental Research and Action Collective, one of the signatories, said there are studies by the government which provide evidence of the sensitivity of the region.

“You can see the effects of the annual monsoons in the Himalayas — from the west to the east — where we have experienced devastating floods, especially over the past few decades. A huge contributor to this is precisely the unregulated rampant development,” said Asher, adding that over the years, every government has brought in amendments to the EIA Act which have whittled away its provisions in favour of developers or industrialists.

Gyatso Lepcha, an activist from Sikkim, said the Eastern Himalayas and Sikkim have experienced unprecedented cloudbursts and landslides in recent years. “One of the biggest issues in the Himalayas are the government’s proposals for hydroelectric power generation and the numerous dams it plans across the region. The setting up of transmission lines to carry this power, the construction of roads and tunnels into the mountains have increased the number of landslides in the region and the state,” said Lepcha.

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