They fear developmental activity will come to a halt

Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s assurance, activists of the all-party Uttarkashi Bachao Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti on Tuesday staged a dharna at Uttarkashi and said they would launch a Statewide agitation if the Centre did not immediately cancel a gazette notification on an eco-sensitive zone between Gomukh and Uttarkashi.

The December 18, 2012 notification has declared an area of 4,179.59 sq km, covering the entire watershed around a 100-km stretch of the Bhagirathi from Gomukh to Uttarkashi, an eco-sensitive zone under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Similar protests were reported from Ramnagar, Kotdwar, Pithoragarh and Haldwani, where agitated people said, “Uttarakhand cannot be robbed of all development avenues by armchair experts sitting in New Delhi,” adding the State was already having a forest cover of over 60 per cent.

“The black law [notification] has sealed the fate of Uttarakhand by declaring an entire catchment area an eco-sensitive zone,” said Avdhash Kaushal, chairperson, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra.

‘Ploy to buy time’

He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance to Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna that the notification would be reconsidered was merely a ploy to buy time.

He alleged that nothing had been done despite assurances by Dr. Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi to restart work on the stalled power project at Srinagar when hundreds of villagers, led by Satpal Maharaj and Mantri Prasad Nainthani, staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar in the capital a few years ago.

On Monday, the Prime Minister told a delegation, led by Mr. Mr. Bahuguna, that an inter-ministerial committee would go into the grievances of locals, who feared that the notification, when implemented, would cause misery to the region and bring all developmental activity including building of border roads to a grinding halt.

Bigwigs in delegation

The delegation included the MP from Haridwar and Union Minister Harish Rawat; MPs Satpal Maharaj and Pradeep Tamta; Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Amrita Rawat, MLA from Gangotri Vijaypal Singh Sajwan and Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar.

Mr. Bahuguna also met the Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan and requested her to take positive action.

  • Inter-ministerial panel will address local’s grievances; Manmohan assures CM-led team

  • Nothing has been done despite assurances by Dr. Singh and Sonia Gandhi to restart work