So much is happening around rivers! Recently, the ministry of environment and forests has a new draft law that proposes to declare a section of the Bhagirathi river — from its origins in Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, for about 135 kilometres, and along a hundred metres on both sides — an eco-sensitive zone.
The law will ban mining, setting up polluting industries, throwing or burning trash, letting sewage flow into the water. Keeping the river pristine is great, but will the rule succeed? I see pitfalls.
Take an example of keeping out the effluents.
If the government does not provide sewage treatment and a drainage system to the residents along the stretch, where else can sewage flow?
There are always outflows from human habitations. And in that case, banning them without infrastructure in place is futile. The backward linkages of this plan must be stronger.
My second fear is about monitoring, supposed to be undertaken by 9 persons, only one of whom will be outside of the government. This does not involve local communities, a classic error in conserving forests.
There are several ways by which local traditions and people could contribute to looking after the river, if only we turn to them officially, in our rules.
Let’s at least learn from our mistakes in our forests, instead of repeating them while saving the rivers.
Himachali Rivers Doomed by the ADB
Only few of us know about the Himachali communities fighting to keep not their land, but their rivers intact, away from a proposed Asian Development Bank Project worth $800 million under the Himachal Clean Energy Development Programme.
Studies by non-governmental organisations suggest the project is a bad idea- all four proposed dams are in seismic zone IV, destructive to rivers, some being built so close to the glaciers they may accelerate the melting of glaciers.
The integrated Kashang project area falls in a highly fragile alpine zone, while the Sainj is close to the Great Himalayan National park and the Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary.
Such clean energy is surely foolish. Let’s not be blind to the destruction potential of clean energy through mega projects.