New projects in Himalayas as per provisions of EIA 2006: Minister

Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that as per the provisions of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006, new projects/activities or the expansion/modernisation of existing projects/activities, listed in the schedule to the notification, require prior environmental clearance from the Central government or from the state-level environment impact assessment authority after taking into consideration the EIA report, environmental management plan, disaster management plan and public consultation.

Choubey was replying to a question raised by Rajya Sabha member Rewati Raman Singh, who had asked: “Is it a fact that hydroelectric projects, highway projects and haphazardly run tourism projects, which are beyond the potential of the Himalayan valley, are endangering the invaluable natural resources of the Himalayas?”

In reply to Singh’s question as to whether the government “has taken cognisance of various scientific reports published in recent months after the Uttarakhand disaster in February, 2021 raised serious questions about unsustainable development schemes in the Himalayas”, Choubey said: “The National Disaster Management Authority and various scientific departments/institutions conducted studies to ascertain the causes of disaster and to suggest prevention /mitigation measures. The state government has already initiated action on the recommendations of these studies.”

The Ministry of Power has also constituted a committee under the chairperson of Central Electricity Authority for deciding upon early warning systems in the hilly regions for mitigating the effects of natural calamities, the minister said.

The government also listed the various steps taken for the conservation of Ganga and the Himalayas.

The National Mission on Clean Ganga (NMCG) is carrying out various projects/activities under the Namami Gange programme for the restoration/rejuvenation of river Ganga, which include treatment of municipal sewage, treatment of industrial effluents, drain bio-remediation, river surface cleaning, rural sanitation, river front development, ghats and crematoria development, afforestation and biodiversity conservation, public outreach programme, etc., it said.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has established the GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment as a focal agency to advance scientific knowledge and to evolve integrated management strategies for the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources in the Indian Himalayan region. The government of India has also launched the National Mission on Himalayan Studies in 2015-16, a central sector scheme, to support the sustenance and enhancement of the ecological, natural cultural and socioeconomic capital assets and values of the Indian Himalayan Region.

Other initiatives of the government include the National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) under the Department of Science & Technology, the minister added.