Environment, man-animal conflict: Unlock 1 poses challenge for Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand annually attracts over 3.5 crore tourists and pilgrims.
Pollution in Ganga in Haridwar before the lockdown.(HT Photo)
Pollution in Ganga in Haridwar before the lockdown.(HT Photo)
Updated on Jun 05, 2020 12:48 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Dehradun | ByNeeraj Santoshi | Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi

There has been a reduction in man-animal conflict in Uttarakhand and an overall decrease in pollution levels in the state, especially in Ganga during the Covid-19 lockdown. But now the officials and green activists are worried that with movement of people, resumption of commercial and industrial activities and traffic under Unlock 1.0, these might increase again.

SP Subodh, member secretary Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) said that there has been definitely a decrease in pollution levels in Ganga and other rivers of the state and general improvement in air quality in major cities due to almost non-existent traffic on the roads.

“The tourists and pilgrims didn’t come during lockdown which also contributed in a major way in the decrease in the pollution levels in the state. When tourists come, they leave behind a lot of waste which adds to the solid waste and water pollution in the state. Also with factories closed during the lockdown, lesser pollutants were entering water bodies body, helping them cleanse themselves,” he said.

Uttarakhand annually attracts over 3.5 crore tourists and pilgrims.

Subodh said they have again taken samples from Ganga to check what is the status in the pollution levels with Unlock 1.0 underway. “Earlier, we had taken samples in April in which we saw significant improvement in the water quality during the lockdown. Based on the new findings which will come in a few days, we will make suggestions to the state and Central government on how to keep the water quality of Ganga consistent,” said Subodh.

A view of the Ganga river after the lockdown in Haridwar. (HT Photo)
A view of the Ganga river after the lockdown in Haridwar. (HT Photo)

Last time during April, when UEPPCB had taken samples from Ganga, it had found a 47% reduction in fecal coliform observed at Lakshmanjhula, 46% at the barrage downstream in Rishikesh, and 25% at Bindughat (upstream of Haridwar), besides 20% reduction in biochemical oxygen demand at Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar.

With wild animals like leopards, Nilgai, bears and elephants venturing near human habitations and on to roads during the lockdown period, the state forest department had formed teams in many areas to keep tab wildlife movement. Two elephants were even spotted at the busy Har Ki Pauri ghat and BHEL township in Haridwar. Officials in the state forest department said lockdown restrictions on vehicular traffic and human movement made it easier for wild animals to venture near human settlements and highways.

Rajiv Bhartari, chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand, said that due to lockdown there was less human interference in wildlife habitats and areas around them. “Lockdown gave time to wildlife, environment and nature and planet Earth to rejuvenate and heal themselves. It also made us realise how we should take the environment and wildlife seriously. I think post-lockdown, our biggest challenge is how to stop all such activities that harm environment and wildlife and disturb the balance in Nature”, he said

Parag Madhukar Dhakate, chief conservator of forests (CCF) western circle Kumaon said with fewer people out, there has been an overall reduction of over 50% in the man-animal conflict in the state. “Now our biggest concern is that wild animals have got habituated to deserted roads and would come out on to the roads and near habitations. With people coming out in Unlock 1.0, we are exploring ways and strategies to check their conflict with the humans,” he said.

Dhakate said the lockdown had proved to be good for wildlife and the environment in the state. “Apart from humans, animals were also getting comparatively cleaner air and water. Now it will be our biggest challenge to maintain this level with regard to less pollution and less man-animal conflict.”

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