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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Why the Centre must listen to the demands of the Himalayan states

Their developmental and ecological demands — and hurdles — are different

editorials Updated: Jul 30, 2019 18:15 IST

Hindustan Times
Jammu and Kashmir, July 25 (ANI): People walk in Waterlogged road after heavy rain in Srinagar on Thursday. (ANI Photo)
Jammu and Kashmir, July 25 (ANI): People walk in Waterlogged road after heavy rain in Srinagar on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

Last week, at a conclave in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, representatives of 10 Himalayan states placed two demands before the Union finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman. First, the creation of a separate ministry to deal with problems of the region; and second, a green bonus for these ecologically fragile states. This is the first time that these states — Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, and Manipur (10 of 12 Indian Himalayan Region states) — have come together on a common platform to voice their demands. They had to do this because their developmental and ecological demands are unique, but, unfortunately, a holistic understanding of the mountain ecology has been missing in India’s policymaking.

In the past few years, however, there has been some movement to redress this situation.

In 2018, the NITI Aayog constituted the Himalayan State Regional Council to ensure sustainable development of the region. It set up five working groups to prepare a road map for the region on water security, sustainable agriculture, green tourism, skill development, and data-led governance. The Aayog also floated the idea of a “green tax” on tourists visiting these states. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s 2019 manifesto also promised a “green bonus” to the states.

The demands of the Himalayan states are justified. This is because their economic, social and environmental challenges are very different from the country’s other regions, and they are becoming even more critical because of climate change, and the increasing anthropogenic pressure on these states. For mainland India, the region is important because it plays a significant role in influencing the country’s climate; is the source of our major rivers; and has huge forest wealth. Additionally, the region has huge tourist potential, though it has its own set of problems. To tackle these issues, the government needs to think about a pan-Himalayan development strategy that is based on the region’s natural resources, culture, and traditional knowledge. A new ministry and a green bonus could help streamline these strategies, and align financial resources required to roll out these plans in a timebound manner.

First Published: Jul 30, 2019 18:13 IST

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