By: Ravinder Vasudeva
Bilaspur: After carrying out extensive discussion on the various issues relating to the Himalaya, the two-day state level conference of about 30 organizations fighting hard in their respective areas against the issues of power projects, cement plants and other development activities deteriorating Himalayan environment, come to the end on Sunday with a demand charter being prepared urging the state and central governments to pay heed to solve their demands.
“ No development project which results in the corrosion of the Himalayan beauty and environment should be allowed to be set up in the state without the prior permission of the concerned Gram Sabha and the recent notices under Section 17/4 given at Renuka Dam, Barnala tower line and Alsindi cement plant in Sundernagar should be immediately withdrawn”, demands the charter. The demand charter included abrogation of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, enforced in the era of the Britishers.
The conference showed serious concerns about the issue of proper rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced persons who, owing to the settlement of various dams, power projects and cement plants, had lost their native land and had not been given proper remuneration.
“The real estate business, which includes setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), is the biggest threat to agricultural land for the tinny hilly state and the setting up of SEZ in Gagret of Una district should be immediately withdrawn”, the participants demanded. The conference claimed that cement plants being set up in the state were causing huge amount of deterioration of mountains in the state and the state government should ban the setting up of more such plants.
“For a state like Himachal, mega tourism projects like the Ski Village would only attract ‘five-star’ tourists and would worsen the employment opportunities of the locals presently working in the area. The present BJP state government should clear its stand on the issue instead of giving double meaning statements on the issue, as in opposition the BJP has opposed the same,” concluded the charter. The conference demanded that the whole Himalayan region should be declared a ‘sensitive zone’ and in order to develop the region in systematic way the central government should set up a committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister.