Activists call halt to destructive activities in the name of development

Several voluntary organisations and activists on Sunday raised the demand for a pro-people policy for the Himalayan region and pledged to launch a countrywide jan andolan.

Raising the banner of “Himalayan Unity Movement,” the NGOs decried the destructive activities such as building huge dams on the Himalayan rivers that interfered with the ecological system and caused loss of agriculture land, forcing people to migrate.

“The Himalayas are in danger. The government must wake up… Its exploitative policies destroying the ecology and making people migrate out of the region,” said Anil Joshi of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO), who is behind the campaign. September 9 is celebrated as ‘Himalaya Day’.

“We have come to New Delhi to make the non-Himalayan people, who are the beneficiaries of the rivers originating in the Himalayas, power generation and the fruits of Himalayan biodiversity, also raise their voice against the anti-people decisions and environmental destruction in the region,” he said.

Referring to the concern at climate change impacting the Himalayan glaciers and agriculture, he said: “Everybody talks about it but there is no policy. The only policy is how to exploit the rivers to make big dams or take away prime agriculture land in the name of industrialisation. Economy and ecology should go hand in hand.”

Participating in the day-long deliberations, member of Parliament Pradeep Tamta said the problems in the Himalayan region concerned half of the world’s population as the range was shared by India, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan. The Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra form the Himalayan river system, yet for lack of technology and technique farmers of the hilly regions were not benefited as their counterparts in Punjab, Haryana and the western areas were. “The exploitation of the Himalayan rivers, the melting glaciers cannot be merely the concern of people of the Himalayas,” he said.

Suman Sahai of the Gene Campaign regretted that when the entire developed world was moving away from big dams, India was planning mega projects. “The idea of power from small run-of-the river turbines that could be connected to the grid is good, but it will not be picked up because it does not bring benefit to contractors and builders. Instead, the trend is indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources.”

While Charu Tiwari from the hills outlined the problems faced by the people living in the Himalayas, J.S. Bisht, also in the forefront of the ‘Save Himalaya’ movement, decried “unscientific constructions” in the region “in the name of development and progress.”

Mr. Bisht sought the setting up of a board of the Himalayan States to formulate a policy for the region.