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Over 60 Environmental, Social Orgs Seek Ban on Mega Infra Projects in Himalayas

The ‘People for Himalayas’ campaign also demanded a multi-disciplinary review of all such ongoing projects.

Flooded Teesta river in North Sikkim, Oct. 4, 2023. File Image: PTI

New Delhi: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, over 60 environmental and social organisations under the banner of ‘People for Himalaya’ campaign have called for a complete ban on all mega infrastructure projects in the Himalayas. These include dams, four-lane highways, railway and hydel projects.

They have also demanded a multi-disciplinary review of all ongoing projects.

The demands are part of a charter of five demands for all political parties, the forum said in an online press conference, reports PTI.

Calling for making democratic decision-making through referendums and public consultations compulsory for large infrastructure projects, the forum said.

Addressing the press conference, Magsayay award winner and climate activist Sonam Wangchuk, who has just ended his 21-day fast in Ladakh, 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."

‘People for Himalaya’ has also demanded scrapping of amendments of the Environment Impact Assessment 2020 and of the Forest Conservation Act 2023, strengthening of the EIA 1994.

In his address, 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, said the PTI report.

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

“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”, PTI said.

The ‘People for Himalya’ campaign was formed early this month after as series of climate disasters have been hitting the Himalayas, such as the glacial lake outburst in Sikkim, the huge cracks appearing in Joshimath, widespread landslides and floods.

A declaration adopted by the campaign pointed out that the climate disasters being seen in recent times were “systemic and policy-induced” and a result of the “historical process of exploitation and governance failure at various levels – global and local.”

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