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Hydro-power, industry may hit ecology, warns green plan

The hydro-power and industry sector have been identified as the two main pressure points in Himachal’s development journey, which could have an adverse impact on the degrading fragile mountain ecology if timely steps are not taken to ensure sustainable growth with checks and balances.

The Environment Master Plan (EMP), prepared by the Department of Environment and Scientific Technology and approved by the government, has identified the vulnerable areas of the state where future planning will have to be done with utmost care. The EMP has been adopted to mainstream environmental concerns into the state’s development planning in sectors of economy for the next 30 years.

The EMP has not just identified the pressure areas but also the vulnerability index has been worked out, which basically indicates the population pressure on the natural environment which determines the quality of life.

While the five districts of Mandi, Bilaspur, Shimla, Sirmaur and Hamirpur have been identified as highly vulnerable, the most susceptible tehsils of the state include Mandi, Bilaspur Sadar, Paonta Sahib, Shimla (rural) and Sujanpur Tira.

The recommendations made in the EMP stress on preparation of river basin plans, which determine the carrying capacity of the basin and also include the mapping of catchments. “River basin plans should specifically focus on determination of flow of rivers which will help in determining ecological flow versus available flow,” it suggests.

It has also been recommended that a state-level interdisciplinary committee on hydro-power be constituted with eminent experts like basin planners, hydrologists, environmentalists, ecologists and socio-economic experts. This committee could not just coordinate with the Ministry of Forest and Environment but also suggest sustainable hydropower development solutions.

“Sectoral approach to EMP has been adopted in mainstream environmental concerns in the state’s development planning in sectors of the economy for the next 30 years,” says Tarun Sridhar, Principal Secretary (Forest and Environment). Three sectors of Infrastructure, Natural Resources Management and Services have been identified for preparation of EMP, he added.

He added that the EMP has been prepared in order to ensure the sustainability of environmental heritage and natural resources of the state and to develop a long-term perspective of achieving environmentally sustainable development.

As per the EMP, industry is another sector which, in certain areas, is putting pressure on natural resources like rivers, flora and fauna. “There is need to mitigate the impact on rives, flora and fauna and the resulting changes in livelihood because of multipurpose river valley projects, power plants and industries,” the EMP says.

The plan

  • The Environment Master Plan (EMP), prepared by the Department of Environment and Scientific Technology and approved by the government, has identified the vulnerable areas of the state where future planning will have to be done with utmost care
  • The EMP has been adopted to mainstream environmental concerns into the state’s development planning in sectors of economy for the next 30 years
  • The EMP has not just identified the pressure areas but also the vulnerability index has been worked out, which basically indicates the population pressure on the natural environment which determines the quality of life
  • “There is need to mitigate the impact on rives, flora and fauna and the resulting changes in livelihood because of multipurpose river valley projects, power plants and industries,” the EMP says.

The Times of India (08-12-2013)