Sunday 28 August 2011

CEE Community consultation programme for environment groups in Uttarakhand, HP, Punjab, Haryana

Written by Anil Singh

A one day community consultation programme was organized yesterday in Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, by the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) for 53 environment and other organizations based in the northern regions of the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal ; as well as standalone environment experts and the experts from other organisations.

The convention primarily discussed:

"The programme on climate change, impact and adaptation needs in Himachal as part of the framework of a proposed five year long project "Indian Himalayas climate adaptation programme" of CEE which will be implemented in Himachal, Sikkim and later in Uttarakhand from 2012-2017."

Informed the Programme director of CEE Himalaya, Abdesh Gangwar.

Under the programme, at one level technical knowhow between research institutes in India andSwitzerland will be exchanged, and at another level existing policies related to environment will be reviewed and analyzed to find out what new needs to be changed in the existing policies to make them more hill friendly. The community perspective and what needs of the community are required to be addressed is also a part of this project.

This very news reminded me of an article by Dr. R. S. Rajbar, a Biology professor at Pt. Lalit Mohan Sharma Post Graduate College Rishikesh (affiliated to HNB Garhwal University), published in 2002 or 2003, in an Esteemed Daily. The very intelligent and aware article, shared with the readers of Uttarakhand, the knowledge about how people in Switzerland, a country having similar topography, climate and ecosystem as that of Uttarakhand, preserve their vegetation, not only in the wild but also the pastures meant for their diary animals. The professor, who visited the European country for some convention; says that villagers in Switzerland are very conscious of their fragile ecosystem to the extent that, they don’t’ even walk non-purposefully on their pastures. The professor, who tried to thrust upon the need to preserve Uttarakhand’s fragile and important ecosystem; wondered the utter disregard village people in Uttarakhand show for their animal grazing pastures (locally called ‘Bugyals’).

The professor made a very right observation in the said article.

The sheer disregard for Uttarakhand’s delicate ecosystem is continuing even after more than a decade of its foundation. Let I try to substantiate my assertion in one simple example.

Every year during the month of shravan, Lakhs of people from Uttarakhand and outside, visit the Neel Kanth Mahadev Shrine on top of a hill near Rishikesh. To reach the shrine, people use both motor-able road and shortcuts through the forests. Motor-able road is ok, but imagine the forest surrounding the shrine getting crores of people footsteps for one complete month. With number of shortcuts in the forest increasing with each passing year, imagine the pressure all these footsteps put on the forest land, which often results in irregular water logging in the forest and break in the normal proliferation of wild vegetion (the roots of the plants get destroyed by constant pressure and the shortcuts divide the forest land, which bars the vegetation to grow continuously).

Add to the above, the biological waste like sweat, urine, blood and excreta; and the non-biological waste like plastic, the human activity leaves on and along the sides of these forest shortcuts (because of the absence of proper facilities); and all this makes for a recipe for disaster for the forests and their flora and fauna.

But no one seems to care. Both the people living in the adjoining towns of the shrine, and the state Government, are happy with the business the annual pilgrimage brings to them. And with each passing year the impact of this utter negligence is clearly seen.

The situation is very similar at most shrines in the state. And the situation is alarming, when one considers the fact that, the state of Uttarakhand and people consider these shrines a source fo significant revenue.

But as the professor says, we need to conserve the delicate ecosystem of Uttarakhand.

Let’s recommend, the state, city, town planners, shrine administrators, some important steps:

1) If the shrine is situated in between a forest, bar people from taking forest short cuts. Make then use the motor-able road instead; with road clearly demarcated for people on foot and on vehicles.

2) If for some reason people do have to walk on a section of forest, then make people walk on elevated angle iron ramps, rather than directly on the forest floor.

3) Provide sufficient toilets and put dust bins for other human biological and non-biological wastes. For this, the planners should install toilets, taps in which the biological waste and waste water is collected in containers or transported via pipelines to biological plants and waste dumping grounds. In no way the waste should be allowed to seep in to forests.

It feels good to see that institutions like CEE are equipping the people and groups dedicated to conserve the ecosystem. It’ll be better if Governments become more concerned and creative in this regard as well. We the people, should also fulfill our part by following the rules made by the Government in this regard; and show our individual care for the fragile ecosystem we live in.

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