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Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone

Context:

The union environment ministry has approved the zonal master plan for the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone notification that stretches from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi covering an area of 4179.59 sqkm.

  • This move will help expedite the chaardhaam road project.

What is there in the zonal master plan?

The ZMP is based on watershed approach and includes governance in the area of forest and wildlife, watershed management, irrigation, energy, tourism, public health and sanitation, road infrastructure, etc.

Background:

The Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone notification was first issued by the environment ministry on December 18, 2012.

After years of protests by local environmentalists, the notification sought to protect the entire fragile Himalayan region by restricting hydropower projects of over 2 MW, riverbed mining and change of land use.

The notification was however amended on April 16, 2018 following Uttarakhand government’s objections that the notification was ‘anti-development.’

  • The amendments approved land use change to meet the local needs including civic amenities and other infrastructure development in larger public interest and national security with the prior approval of State Government with due study of Environmental Impacts.

What are the Concerns now?

This approval could make the entire Bhagirathi region extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Pointing at the 2013 Kedarnath tragedy, experts put forth the following arguments:

  1. The Himalayas are extremely fragile mountains. The rocks still haven’t consolidated completely. Hill cutting will definitely destabilise hills.
  2. If there is forest loss, debris would flow into the river affecting the river and making the entire region extremely vulnerable to landslides.
  3. Beyond 1800 to 2000 metres altitude its mostly moraines (unconsolidated glacial debris). If there is a cloudburst these will add to landslides.
  4. The Himalayas are also in seismic zone V- a major earthquake can happen anytime.

Where is Bhagirathi Eco- Sensitive Zone?

Located in the upper Himalayas, the notified area of the Bhagirathi eco- sensitive zone is an interwoven, interdependent fragile Ganga- Himalayan Basin.

Geographically the area falls under the Garhwal lesser Himalayas and Higher Himalayas.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. How an eco-sensitive zone is declared?
  2. Where is Bhagirathi eco- zone?
  3. Classification of Himalayas.
  4. Kedarnath- location.
  5. Locate Gaumukh on map.

Sources: pib.