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‘Himalayan states promoting unregulated tourism, infrastructure’

The Himalayan states have learned no lessons from the Kedarnath disaster and are continuing to ignore the sustainable governance practices floated by the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED) in 2009, the environment ministry said on Saturday.

The ten states situated wholly in the lap of Himalayas – Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and two states falling partially – West Bengal and Assam – have been found resorting to the promotion of unregulated tourism and unsustainable development of the mountain regions, the ministry said on the occasion of International Himalayan Day, while assessing the progress made on the compliance of guidelines prescribed in the working document ‘Governance for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem’ of 2009, by the states.

The guidelines, among other best practices, emphasise upon regulated tourism based on the assessment of carrying capacity of a particular area and infrastructure development based on geo-physical and hydrological parameters of a place.

The ministry also noted that despite repeated reminders to the states on restricted use of polythenes and ban on plastics, the states persisted to neglect all the guidelines, prescribed by the GBPIHED.

‘We have been constantly calling for legislation by the states for the execution of these best practices and guidelines since 2009 but none of them have adopted any, so far. Even Uttarakhand government continues to ignore these in the rebuilding process of the state, which is very concerning,’ said PP Dhyani, director of the GBPIHED and also a part of the inter-ministerial group on sustainable Himalayan governance.

‘Most of these Himalayan states lack any effective solid-waste management plans till date, which is extremely threatening for the local ecology and for both upstream as well as downstream population,’ he said.

‘Non-adherence of these guidelines and any state-devised eco-friendly practices make all these Himalayan states equally vulnerable to Uttarakhand-like disaster in the event of any adverse climatic conditions,’ Dhyani said.

A senior official of the ministry of environment and forests, wishing not to be named, said, ‘The carrying capacity of many areas within the Himalayan states have been breached by as much as double to treble and still there is no control or management of tourism. We have written several times to the states but political pressures are preventing us from taking action.’

The high-level inter ministerial group has stressed upon eco-tourism, eco-friendly constructions, plastics ban, code of conduct for tourists, web-based platforms for informed decision-making, managing tourism under legal regulation, diverting tourist canters to other destinations, identification of new tourist circuits, zonation policy, undertaking scientific zonations, location planning for tourist infrastructure development, home-stay tourism, disaster management, multimedia and training to pilgrims, tourists, tourist guides, hoteliers and transport operators, among other measures.
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