Uttarakhand politicians fear that development activities in some major religious and commercial centres will come to a standstill if the areas they fall in are declared eco-sensitive by the state government.
Chief minister Harish Rawat had asked forest department during his meeting with the state board for wildlife (SBWL) on April 15 to present a proposal of eco-sensitive zones before the cabinet for the final approval.
The forest department has sought a report from the six national parks and seven wildlife sanctuaries in this regard by May 15. After this, the proposals will be presented before state government next month.
Sources said there was a strong possibility that some areas, which fall in the national park’s buffer zone in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Himachal Pradesh (HP), may figure on the eco-sensitive list. Amangarh range of UP falls in the buffer zone of Corbett Tiger Reserve and Govind National Park shares boundary with HP.
Chief wildlife warden Digvijay Singh Khati said for this the state government would have to seek permission of the respective counter parts of HP and UP. He said, “About 45 kms of UP and 30km of HP is bordering our protected areas which may be declared as eco-sensitive zone.”
However, local politicians have their share of concerns on the issue as the decision may adversely affect many roaring commercial and religious centres which are in the vicinity of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state.
Sources said the Rajaji National Park was one of the most protected areas, which falls in the four districts and is connected with three major townships—Dehradun, Haridwar and Saharanpur (Mohand) in UP. Similarly, the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) area includes Almora, Lansdowne, Ramnagar and Pauri too.
Yamunotri legislator Pritam Singh Panwar said, “We too support eco-sensitive zones, but not at the cost of development. The forest department will have to prepare such a plan so that the rights of the local people are not obstructed.”
“We aren’t against eco-sensitive zones. But, we will not allow restriction on development at any cost. I have discussed the matter of Rajaji with chief minister before and if rights of local people will be hampered, then we would protest,” Madan Kaushik, MLA Haridwar said.
Earlier, eco-sensitive zone of 100km stretch from Gaumukh till Uttarkashi, notified by ministry of forest and environment (MoEF) on December 18, 2012, too drew flak from the locals as well as the state government.
Former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna had written to the Prime Minister for his reconsideration over the zone demarcation which threatened to curb commercial activities in the region.