Category: Whose Development?

Is the upcoming Char Dham highway speeding towards environmental disaster?

The upcoming 900 kilometre-long Char Dham highway project, is being seen as a strategic attempt to bolster preparation of India’s security forces at the India-China border, apart from increasing tourist volume. But while it will facilitate the smooth movement of pilgrims and defence forces, it could be at the cost of the environment in the fragile hill state. According to experts, unchecked construction of the all-weather highway may end up triggering disasters in the ecologically sensitive Uttarakhand region.

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Of dusty snow and rotten apples

On April 16, Roshan Lal Negi woke up to find snow carpeting the courtyard of his home in Jangi village. Boys with smartphones quickly made videos to share on WhatsApp but more than a month later, the dusty snow still sits on the lower parts of most peaks in Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh. Particles from a dust storm in the northern plains might have travelled to Kinnaur and mixed with the unseasonal snowfall, suggests Dr Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological centre in Shimla, giving the dusty appearance. The jury is still out, but most agree that this rain shadow region is experiencing a drastic shift in its weather patterns. Rains are increasing, snowfall is declining, and temperatures are rising, which all have great impacts on an area prone to landslides and fed by glacial melt.

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Citizens could save India’s environment, if a 15-year-old law is used well

As time progressed, Baiga Chak–the officially recognised traditional habitat of the Baiga tribe known for its myriad species and their inclusion in the local diet, lifestyle and healthcare–started losing its biodiversity. A nonprofit, the National Institute of Women, Child, and Youth Development (NIWCYD), established “forest study groups” in various villages in 2005. The approach was unique: Instead of getting experts to research on the changing ecosystem, villagers were trained not only to analyse the situation but also to suggest conservation plans.

In short, they were to become citizen scientists.

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Displacement And Deforestation On Kedarnath Route

Last Friday, before the closing of the gates of the Kedarnath temple, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an elaborate speech about the ‘grand reconstruction’ of Kedarnath town. While inaugurating the project he also said the number of people visiting Kedarnath will increase manifold in coming years. “You can take this in writing, next year no less than ten lakh (one million) people will come to visit the shrine,” he said. However this ‘development’ is not good news for everyone. Downstream at Agastyamuni, Uma Prasad Bhatt, a local resident is worried. His house is marked for demolition to build an all-weather highway to Kedarnath. This proposed highway is part of Char-Dham project inaugurated by the prime minister last year. Bhatt says authorities want to acquire his property for widening of the road but the compensation they are offering is meagre.

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