Study on carrying capacity of hill states critical, says Supreme Court | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Study on carrying capacity of hill states critical, says Supreme Court

ByAbraham Thomas, New Delhi
Aug 22, 2023 12:07 AM IST

The petition included Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, the union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, and the northeastern states

The problem of haphazard construction, increased vehicular and tourist load, and the lack of planned development in the Himalayan states is an important issue, the Supreme Court said on Monday, suggesting that it could constitute a panel next week to study the carrying capacity of mountainous areas.

The bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, asked the Centre to suggest the names of institutes with expertise to carry out such a study (ANI)
The bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, asked the Centre to suggest the names of institutes with expertise to carry out such a study (ANI)

“This is a very important issue. We will confine this matter to the Himalayan states. We can constitute a committee to work on the way forward,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, hearing a public interest litigation.

The lawsuit was filed by Greater Noida-based doctor Ashok Kumar Raghav, who said the frequently visited hill stations are situated in ecologically fragile areas and despite the heavy flow of tourists, the cities do not have a master plan, area development plan, or a zonal development plan to ensure planned growth.

The petition stressed on determining carrying capacity for a realistic assessment of the availability of drinking water, sewerage, infrastructure, parking space, health and emergency services that could help fix a cap on the inflow of tourists and vehicles and take corrective measures to preserve the ecological balance around these places.

The bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, asked the Centre to suggest the names of institutes with expertise to carry out such a study. “Tell us which are these institutes and their broad terms of reference,” the court said. “We will nominate 3-4 institutes, which can nominate their representatives to the committee, which can study on the carrying capacity.”

The developments came roughly two weeks after heavy monsoon showers wreaked havoc in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, resulting in the deaths of at least 103 people across the two states in landslides, building collapses, and damage to roads and other infrastructure.

The Centre had prepared a template for all states to provide information on existing land use pattern, population, civic amenities, vehicles, parking facility, mode of connectivity, hotel facilities, restaurants and food joints, average consumption of water, electricity and waste management, among others, additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati told the court.

The Himalayan states can be asked to respond to this template, the court said. The petition included Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, the union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, and the northeastern states.

The Centre informed the court that the GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development in Uttarakhand’s Almora had prepared guidelines on assessing the carrying capacities of hill stations, which was submitted in an earlier proceeding before the top court in 2020. This matter was closed in April last year.

Bhati pointed out a few proceedings were pending before the National Green Tribunal on similar issues. In one such case, the court noted that the GB Pant institute, in collaboration with Uttarakhand state pollution control board, prepared an environment plan for all 13 districts of Uttarakhand.

A carrying capacity study was not meant to be done by one institute, the petitioner argued. Such a study should involve different departments or ministries of the government to undertake a comprehensive assessment of available resources and to the extent construction and tourist activity could be permitted, he said.

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