Work on the preparation of a zonal plan for the eco-sensitive 100km-long stretch of the Bhagirathi River from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi will be put on the fast track after a high-level meeting chaired by the chief minister.
The decision comes almost three years after the 4100 sq km area from the river’s origin in Gaumukh down to Uttarkashi was notified as an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
At a meeting chaired by chief minister Harish Rawat recently, it was decided that work on preparing a zonal plan for the notified area would be cleared in just one or two months and presented before the officials of the Union forest and environment ministry.
“The Bhagirathi River Valley Development Authority (BRVDA) covers the area notified under ESZ. We are already working in the Bhagirathi river basin and therefore now we will be working on zonal plans for ESZ as well,” SS Pangti, advisor, BRVDA, said on Tuesday.
Uttarakashi officiating district magistrate GS Rawat confirmed that officials are working to prepare the zonal plan as per the notification. The notification had envisaged that the state government shall prepare a ‘zonal master plan’ within a period of two years, which has already elapsed.
However, according to Pangti, the notification issued on December 18, 2012, has many loopholes. He said one of the objectives of the notification was to reduce “the anthropogenic pressure on the ecosystem and environment”, but “establishment of hotels and resorts” has been put under the category of activities permitted in the area.
“The area is already (suffering from) severe human interference. If hotels and resorts are permitted in the area, the hoteliers and resort promoters, who already have an eye on such Himalayan zones, will go to any extent to establish large resorts,” he said.
Also, Pangti said there was lack of clarity in the notification on which master plan was to be used for the zonal plan. “Master plans are prepared under different Acts with specific objectives,” he said.
Meanwhile, a high-level monitoring committee on the ESZ headed by the CM has met a few times. The committee includes Dr Ravi Chopra of Dehradun-based NGO People’s Science Institute, environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Ganga Aahawan. Also, members of some Central government departments and a member of the state water resources ministry (water supply department) are part of the committee.