Govt to begin infra projects in eco-sensitive zones of Uttarakhand
The government will soon start developmental projects in the 100 km long Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone (BESZ) in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand after getting approval from the concerned departments, road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday, a move, activists say, can harm the most pristine section of the national river.
The UPA government in 2012 had notified the stretch as no development or ESZ and asked the state government to constitute a monitoring committee to ensue that certain activities allowed in the notification can be conducted without disturbing the local environment.
Five years down the line, the committee has not been constituted and therefore, no development projects have been allowed. As per the notification, the formation of the committee is must to review the developmental project proposals coming up in the zone.
“No one noticed this flaw (non existence of monitoring committee) till now. Now to speed up work in the zone, government will make a way out so that projects are cleared on case to case basis” union minister Gadkari told Hindustan Times on Tuesday, a day after he reviewed progress of Namami Ganga and Char Dham all weather roads projects in the state.
The road, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi before Uttarakhand assembly elections in February 2017, has to pass through the eco-sensitive zone. In absence of the monitoring committee, officials sources said the necessary approvals were not been granted by the Central government.
Gadhkari said the government has found a ‘middle path’ by authorising concerned departments for carrying out ‘development’ works in the zone. These departments will also ensure that the conditions to carrying out the development works are complied with.
Apart from the road, the state government also wants to develop small hydro projects in the zone to provide livelihood options to locals. Chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat in November last had requested union government to approve 10 small power projects with a total capacity of 82.5 megawatts saying the Centre had given permission to the such power projects in the eco sensitive zones in Western Ghats and in Himachal Pradesh.
However, environmental activists said that the decision will adversely impact the local environment and Ganga in the upper reaches of the state.
“The state government has been trying to award hydro power projects in the valley and now this huge road project is further aggravating the problem. These projects will neither benefit local nor the fragile environment” said Vimal Bhai, a local environmental activist.
The all weather road passing through the BESZ will result in axing of approximately 40,000 trees and the Centre has fixed March 2019 --- a month before next general election --- as the deadline for completing the Rs 12,000 crore project.
Both the Congress and the BJP had opposed the eco sensitive zone saying it will hamper developmental works in the upper reaches of the state and the state assembly had unanimously passed a resolution asking the union government to recall the notification.