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‘Cap tourist flow to save Himalayas’

delhi Updated: Sep 30, 2009 00:44 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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A ban on plastic and cap on tourist inflow are some of the measures suggested by the Union government to check deterioration of the Himalayan eco-system.

“The development in the present context has become unsustainable. An integrated approach is, therefore, necessary to protect the environment and achieve required economic development,” the ministry of environment and forest said while releasing the guidelines on Tuesday.

Restriction on diversion of agriculture land for commercial purposes in the Indian Himalayan region, spread over 5.37 lakh sq km, has also been suggested.

The guidelines, to be discussed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the chief ministers of the 12 Himalayan states in October, propose curbs on religious and eco-tourism.

“The number of tourists to vulnerable sites should be regulated and limited,” the guidelines say.

Uttrakhand has already shown the way. Since April 2008, only 150 persons a day are allowed to visit the Gangotri glacier. The glacier, according to a study by GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, is receding by 11.8 meters every year.

“Apart from climate change, human activity is a major cause for melting of Gangotri glacier,” said L M S Paini, director of the institute.

There are between 9,000 to 12,000 glaciers in the Indian Himalayan region that are among the world’s worst affected glacier ranges because of climate change.

The region supports almost half of the total flowering plants in India, of which about 30 per cent are endemic to the region. Similarly, 300 mammal and 979 bird species have been recorded in the region.

To protect the bio-diversity, the guidelines say instead of five-star approach, homestead approach should be adopted. “There should be economic disincentive for visiting tourist sites,” Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

The guidelines will be part of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, one of the eight missions that make up the National Action Plan on Climate Change.