Base Himalayan development framework on its geographical, ecological, livelihood needs

himalayanHimalayan Niti Abhiyan’s representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the state on 18th October 2016: 

The Himalaya is the tallest mountain on earth and geologically the youngest and extremely fragile. It is characterized by high levels of inaccessibility, seismicity and structural weakness and related ecological complexity. This mountain holds the largest amount of snow and ice on Earth, after the two poles, making it increasingly known by the name “The Third Pole”.

The Himalaya is among the largest source of freshwater annually, serving almost half of the world population with supplies of freshwater. The Himalayan region is very rich in biological and cultural diversity in particular, of plants with great medicinal values. The Himalaya has been the refuge of populations that have migrated from the plains at various periods, for various reasons. The valley of rivers originating in this mountain has been the cradle of many important civilizations in Asia, like the Indus Valley, Chinese, Indian, South-east Asian, etc.

In the present context, such rivers provide the crucial water supplies to the densely populated areas of north China and north India, food baskets of these countries with very rapidly growing economies. The southern and eastern slopes of the Himalaya are the home of a very large number of people with great ethnic and cultural diversity.

The demographic, cultural, environmental and climatic changes in the Himalayan region provide the backdrop for generating scenarios of future options that could be availed for socio-economic advancements in the region in the coming decades.

Our Concerns

The development model which we are following has given rise of alarming situation in the Himalayan Eco-System and livelihoods of local communities which are under threat due to the present day developmental model based on extraction and forfeiting the wealth of the communities. Climate change has induced disasters in the region as a result change is witnessed in weather pattern, increase in flash floods, landslides, cloud burst and soil erosion causing huge loss of life and property.

Neo-liberalization has aggravated the situation, with state and central governments intent to sell out all common resources to the corporate sector for endless exploitation without considering the consequences there after even when the Constitution has provided legal protection to the regions which come under Schedule V and VI, as well as special protection to J&K and North East. Legal provision under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and concessions traditionally enjoyed for using the forest through Community Forest Rights (CFR) by local communities are not followed and their ownership is usurped by the State and private developers.

Considering above facts local communities have been opposed to this model of development which give rise to Chipko Andolan and later on debate of Himalaya Niti has emerged. In the eighties SZ Kasim committee was constituted by planning commission, the issue was raised in assemblies and Parliament many times.  The latest reported developments took place in the in the Lok Sabha on 11 July 2014, by Dr Ramesh Pokhrial Nishank, Member-Parliament (MP) from Haridwar on which 17 MPs participated in the debate and more than 40 MPs supported the resolution.

Massive congregation and gathering of affected voices, activists, peoples’ movements, academicians, grassroots workers and organizations, scientists, economists, leaders, politicians, citizens and socio-cultural institutions are coming to together time and again on this issue of Framework for Himalayan Development and Himalayan Futures particularly after Kedarnath disaster.

The negative impacts of development framework has forced the people of Himalayas particularly of Himachal Pradesh to oppose mega dams and Hydro Electric projects, simultaneously are opposing mega commercial and development projects such as mining for cement, mega infrastructure particularly unplanned urbanisation and  four lane road projects, SEZ, Ski Village, Thermal power Plants which are affecting  eco system of the region, increasing effects of climate change, alienating local communities as well as causing displacement and bringing disaster.

In these existing circumstances we fear that the Himalayas will be totally destroyed through these models. We believe that any move affecting the environmental, socio-economic fabrics of the region shall be addressed on scientific basis and considering peoples’ aspirations too.

  • There is a need to address the Himalayan Development Framework based on Himalayan geophysical specificity, ecological, environmental and livelihood issues through community conservation – which shall generate sustainable livelihoods by considering the stresses and niche of the region. Government of India as well as states should legislate laws and frame policies for ‘Himalayan Development Framework’ based on the above mentioned aspects after detailed scientific study, public consultation, addressing various sectors of Himalayas and all local socio-political groups and communities.
  • There is a great gap and uncertainty about what will be socially acceptable and not aggravate the natural environment. In order to make such transitions that would strengthen social harmony and not degrade the natural environment, a good amount of interactive knowledge exchange is needed among academicians, social activists, policy makers, government officials, etc. This has to be based on updated interdisciplinary knowledge, recorded and made available to such a large cross-section of stakeholders.
  • The diversity of the region being very high, both in terms of natural environment and the people, the amount of background information and data needed for supporting the stakeholders with the necessary information and knowledge base, is also very large. However, a large gap exists of relevant institutions which are fully accessible to the common people.
  • At the same time, a need is further felt and expressed for the a semi-political non-electoral movement to be supported by a well-researched and experienced background of policy research and advocacy that provides the independent, scientific and academic basis for the obvious changes required for putting the engine of economic growth and nature in sync.

 Our Expectations

Mr Prime Minster, we expect form you to give new direction to the development initiative to the state. We welcome your idea of “no effect development”.  BJP has promised in its last manifesto to adopt environment friendly development model in this state. All political forces are demanding the status of special category state to Himachal but it needs to be in tune with this concept. Hence, we propose these solutions and expect that your government will take serious note of this.

Green development package:  Himachal needs green development package instead of Industrial package as generally sought. This package which shall be based on banning and dis-incentivising mega industries as well as negative industries and mining which are causing pollution, enhancing displacement, deforestation and alienating local communities. Needs is to promote and incentivise environment friendly green and clean industrial operation which shall ensure less impact on environment, minimise pollution and displacement and ensure respectable job and livelihood opportunities to them. Industries based on local forest and agriculture raw materials needs to be promoted in a decentralised manner across the State.

Responsible tourism operation: Incentivise small village/eco and environment friendly responsible tourism operation at different place instead of creating mass tourism hubs.

Incentivising Agriculture, Animal husbandry and Horticulture:  New strategy needs to protect farm sector by incentivising agriculture, animal husbandry and horticulture in the state. New technologies and practises are to be introduced with the idea of promoting organic practices in this sector and value addition by promoting food processing industry.

Promoting Railway network and rope ways instead of four lanes: At present there is no major Railway line inside the state. All transportation is based on road network in Himachal which is causing heavy pollution. Whereas government is proposing many four lane road project which will worsen the this situation as well as is increasing deforestation, displacement, cutting of mountains for such wide roads are increasing land slide and soil erosion. Development of Railway is the only way to promote ecofriendly transport alternative. Rope way can be also a solution in small distances in the valleys.  So Kiritpur to Manali, Pathankot to Mandi, Chadigarh to Shimla and peripheral region which has emerged as industrial area needs rail network.

Moratorium on Dam and Mega Hydro Electric projects: Dam and Mega Hydro Electric projects has reported high negative impact on local eco system, environment, river system, forest, caused landslides, increased erratic weather patron, negatively impacted agriculture and horticulture, increased displacement and alienated local communities from forest and common resources as well. Himachal lies in seismologically active zone and these dams may become the cause of mega disaster in future.  So moratorium is to be put on constructing Mega dams and hydro projects particularly above the 6000 feet, because this region is highly fragile.

Settlement of legacy case and Displacement free development: People of Himachal have faced huge displacement since Bhakhra Dam in sixties and Pong Dam in seventies.  No proper resettlement has so far has been done by the government. All legacy issues need to be addressed and in future displacement free development is to be ensured. People in other dams, hydro projects, cement plants, industries and recently in four lane projects are also cheated and has not been properly compensated and resettled. These issues need to be addressed and fair due is to be given to them.

Implementation of Forest Right Act: Himachal Pradesh government from very beginning tried to evade implementation of the forest rights act and issued many such orders against the provision of FRA, claiming that rights have been settled by the British through the imperial settlement process and hence recognition under FRA is not necessary. Under the constant pressure of the local communities and Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA), state government started the process of implementation. Feeble attempts were made in tribal areas with several illegal riders such as claimant should not be a Government employee, Income tax payee, shopkeeper and even as some were considered encroachers. Forest department and HP High court threatened and pressurised dwellers not to file claims too. FIRs under H.P. Public Premises & Land (Eviction & Rent Recovery) Act, 1971 on encroachment were registered by forest department against those people who filed individual claims in clear contravention to Forest Rights Act 2006.

The High Court of Himachal Pradesh in its order dated 6 April 2015 and recently too sought to remove all encroachment from forest land. Under this pretext, forest department has destroyed and cut down more than 30 thousands apple trees, destroyed orchards of several small farmers. Many residential houses were demolished in many parts of state, water and electricity connections were also disconnected. We appeal to you to ensure prompt implementation of Forest rights Act in the State.

Prepared by Guman Singh, Coordinator, Village Khundan, PO Banjar, Kullu, HP; Kulbhushan Upmanyu, President, Village Kamla, PO Garnota, Sub Tehsil Sihunta, Chamba, HP; and RS Negi, Co-President , Ricong Pio, Kinaur, HP

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