A jewel in the western Himalayan range—the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in Himachal Pradesh—is losing its identity because of excessive resource usage and pressure of development projects, forcing the environment and forest ministry to refuse permission to the second phase of Parbati Hydro-electric Project.
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Dehradun has encompassed a sorry figure for the sanctuary saying that the population of many endangered species is declining.
Three Gyps vultures—white-backed, slender-billed and long-billed—have shown a drastic decline in their population, the report states.
Sighting of many other threatened species like Snow Leapord, Himalayan Brown Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Himalayan Wolf, Tibetan Argali, Himalayan Musk Deer and Koklas has fallen in the state in recent years.
Forest cover in the area has also witnessed some decline.
The GHNP is spread over five wildlife-protected areas and three managed forests in the districts of Kanwar, Shimla and Kullu.
It also acts as a catchment area for two prominent rivers, Sutlej and Beas, apart from providing enormous potential for hydropower projects.
WII says that several sequential hydel projects have pumped a lot of money in the area, thus creating employment avenues, but has caused "irrecoverable" and "compounding" loss to the bio-diversity of the park.
The report terms the condition of the landscape in the park as 'grave'.
While suggesting that future hydel projects like phase two of Parbati Hydel Project should not be allowed without proper bio-diversity conservation plan, WII has estimated that Rs 54 crore will be required to rejuvenate the forest and wildlife area.
The institute has also recommended that forest rights of those living near the sanctuary should be restored and they should be allowed to participate in implementing the restoration plans.
The money should come from Parbati Hydel Project Corporation if it wants environment for the phase II, WII report states. The money should be provided to the Chief Wildlife Warden of Himachal to be spent in five constituent areas of the national park.
In the wake of WII report and its own survey, the ministry of environment and forest has refused environment clearance to the project for the time-being.
"The loss to ecology will be huge if clearance to phase-II is given in the present format," a senior environment ministry official said.
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