“People for Himalaya Campaign” demand ban on all mega infrastructure projects in Himalayas


  • March 30, 2024
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“People for Himalaya” campaign have issued a five-point charter of demand for all political parties for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls demanding a complete ban on all mega infrastructure projects in the Himalayas.

 

Groundxero | March 30, 2024

 

A newly-launched “People for Himalaya Campaign”  held an online press conference on March 29 and released a five-point demand charter for all political parties for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

 

People for Himalaya campaign is an initiative of environmental groups, social organisations and activists from across the seven Himalayan states and Union Territories, and was formed in the backdrop of a series of climate disasters that have in recent times hit the Himalayas, such as the glacial lake outburst in Sikkim, the huge cracks appearing in Joshimath, widespread landslides and floods in Himachal Pradesh. In the wake of these frightening developments discussions began among groups across the Himalayan states in February this year, leading to the adoption of the Charter for the Himalayas.

 

A declaration adopted by the Campaign in February pointed out that the climate disasters being seen in recent times were “systemic and policy-induced” and a result of the “historical process of exploitation and governance failure at various levels – global and local.” The declaration said “We refuse to call them ‘natural’ disasters. We understand that those who are the least responsible for these disasters are in fact the worst impacted by these disasters – and have been further rendered powerless and resource less in the process of disaster-making.”

 

The Campaign endorsed by over 60 environmental and social organisations have demanded a complete ban on all mega infrastructure projects, such as those related to the railways, dams, hydro projects and four-lane highways in the Himalayas. It have urged for referendums and public consultations to be made compulsory for all development projects in the Himalayas, and had also demanded a multi-disciplinary review of all such ongoing projects in the Himalayas.

 

Climate activist Sonam Wangchuk from Ladakh who recently ended his 21-day hunger strike also spoke at the online press conference. Endorsing the Charter of Demands, he said that Ladakhis are continuing their protest and they will march towards the border in a “Pashmina March” on April 7, to draw the Union government’s attention towards their statehood demands for Ladakh and implementation of the Sixth Schedule. These would give local communities the power to make decisions that would help conserve the fragile ecosystem and environment of the region, Wangchuk added.

 

TOWARDS SECURING HIMALAYAS FROM DISASTERS – PEOPLE FOR HIMALAYA DEMAND CHARTER 2024

 

1. STRENGTHEN REGULATION, MONITORING AND PLANNING OF LAND USE, LAND-USE CHANGE AND FORESTRY (LULUCF)

 

  • A complete moratorium on all mega infrastructure projects like railway, dams, hydro projects and four lane highways, tunnelling, transmission lines – and conduct a 360-degree multi- disciplinary review of the impacts of existing projects

 

  • Democratic decision making through referendums and public consultation on large infrastructure by strengthening the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 1994 (Scrapping the EIA 2020 Amendments & FCA 2023 Amendments); Free Prior informed consent of Gram Sabhas to be mandatory for all developmental projects

 

  • Terrain Specific Disaster and Climate Risk Studies and land susceptibility assessments to be mandatory for land use change for urbanisation, commercial development and public infrastructure construction

 

  • Just Implementation of 2013 Right to Fair Compensation and Rehabilitation Act

 

  • To ensure participation of citizens, civic bodies and Gram Sabhas in monitoring pollution and land use change works like stone crusher, sand-gravel mining, mineral mining, debris dumping, construction of local roads and every commercial construction work.

 

2. GRANTING COMMUNITIES CONSTITUTIONAL, LAND AND FOREST GOVERNANCE RIGHTS

 

  • Strengthening of state laws and regulations that protect the private and community resource rights of nature dependent communities – example Van Panchayat Rules in Uttarakhand

 

  • Complete the Unfinished land reforms and land regularisation agendas to provide secure land tenure to landless and displaced communities to practice land based livelihoods – example Nautor rules in Himachal Pradesh

 

  • Just implementation of constitutional provisions and laws that support the decentralised, autonomous and democratic governance and decision making – example the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2006 and other constitutional provisions

 

  • Protection of pastoral communities especially minority communities like the Van Gujjars and Bakarwals in migratory routes

 

  • Strengthen floral and faunal biodiversity through Community Forest Resource Rights governance framework under FRA 2006 – convert pine monocultures into broad leaf forests to address fodder scarcity, forest fires and soil erosion. Five ‘f’ species should drive plantations i.e. fruit, fodder, fertilizer, fuel, fiber and medicinal plants. Weed eradication programs for pasture development.

 

3. TRANSPARENCY, KNOWLEDGE BUILDING, SHARING AND EXCHANGE

 

  • Gram Sabhas, Panchayats, municipal bodies to be involved in disaster governance – not through superficial preparedness trainings but regular sharing of information on latest risk studies and consultations on climate adaptation strategies; disaster risk mitigation and the work carried out under the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem

 

  • Ensuring the participation and representation of all vulnerable and marginalised communities in these public consultations

 

  • Put in place mechanisms for transparency and accountability of climate proofing projects

 

  • Obligatory public disclosure of Hydrological data of the Himalayan River Basins; Air and Water Pollution data of all industrial belts, commercial and tourism centres

 

4. BUILDING RESILIENT, EQUITABLE AND SUSTAINABLE MOUNTAIN SOCIETIES

 

  • Build financially remunerative agro-ecological livelihoods that are accessible to all: for example wool, meat and dairy production by strengthening pastoralism and animal husbandry’ other cottage industries; Decentralised Solar and other energy systems

 

  • Dispersed, environment sustaining and economically remunerative responsible tourismregulated collectively by communities respectful of the region’s carrying capacity

 

  • Implementation of the Plastics/Solid/Liquid Waste Management Rules; Building consciousness on production and management of waste in urban areas; for tourists

 

  • Reviving collective systems of resource use and management – upskilling based on balance between indigenous knowledge and modern science

 

  • Formation, regular updating and implementation of state climate action plans

 

  • Promotion, facilitation of human work force (traditional manual mining), light machines in place of big excavators in mining, road building other construction projects. Effective debris, muck disposal policy ensuring minimum generation and maximum reuse.

 

  • Protection of labour rights especially migrant labour and putting in place legal mechanism for proper implementation of SC/ST Sub plans in mountain states.

 

  • Protecting riverine ecosystems, environmental flows and rights protected only for drinking and local existing irrigation schemes.

 

  • Reorganisation of Panchayats on the basis of watershed boundaries not merely on the basis of population

 

5. PUT IN PLACE A ROBUST DISASTER RESPONSE  

 

  • Creation of a dedicated disaster response fund over and above the right to funds and other help from the Union government

 

  • Apart from Rescue and Recovery strengthening Post Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation as per the provisions of Disaster Management Act 2005

 

  • Time bound and full Central Government Support to Himalayan states in case of extreme events – Provide time bound exemptions under the Forest Conservation Act 1980 for treatment of disaster affected private lands and rehabilitation of disaster displaced to safe areas (a land swap policy) and scrap

 

  • Support to and acknowledgment of the role of decentralised /community controlled disaster action and response – Mahila Mandals, Youth Clubs and Panchayats

 

  • Fixing Accountability and Culpability – Dam Safety Act 2022 to be made applicable for all existing dams in the state; Restructuring and functionalising institutions like Central Water Commission, State Committee on Dam Safety (SCDS), State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO), Met Department, Central and State Pollution Control Boards, State Disaster Management Authority etc – Penal action in case of violations of norms

 

  • Strengthen and strictly enforce the rules and environmental norms for all developmental works – like stone crushers, sand-gravel mining, river training and dredging, river front development projects, debris dumping and every commercial construction work.

 

PEOPLE FOR HIMALAYA – CAMPAIGN DECLARATION FEBRUARY 2024

 

This declaration comes in the wake of the irreversible impacts of increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters in the Himalayan region.

 

  1. On the one hand are frequent extreme climatic events – landslides, intense rainfall, floods, GLOFs, cloudbursts, heatwaves and on the other creeping slow onset events of decreasing snowfall, snow cover, rising temperatures and glacial melts. As result of these we see falling crop yields, drying of springs and streams, altering floral and faunal habitats, growing invasive species. We understand these disasters are not one time events but cascading and compounding disasters that are disturbing the local geology, ecology and livelihoods, dispossessing nature based communities.

 

  1. We understand that these disasters which appear in the natural environment – are actually systemic and policy induced disasters and result of historical processes of exploitation and governance failure at various levels – from global to local. Thus these disasters are political, economic and social not just environmental disasters. We refuse to call them ‘natural’ disasters. We understand that those who are the least responsible for these disasters are in fact the worst impacted by these disasters – and have been further rendered powerless and resource less in the process of disaster-making. These include marginal farmers, landless dalits, forest dwellers, adivasis, women, migrant workers, pastoralists, minorities, persons with disabilities and those living in conflict zones.

 

  1. We believe that those who are the most responsible for these disasters are those in power and extracting resources for profiteering. Those sitting at the helm of decision making from the countries and financial institutions of the global north, to the national and state governments and governance institutions, corporates and contractors – we hold them accountable for the growing commodification of the Himalaya. The Himalaya have been viewed as either ‘exotic’ places or ‘strategic’ borderlands, resulting in resource extraction since the colonial era. This exploitation has gained greater momentum in the last few decades of capitalist greed in the name of development – mindless infrastructures like mega dams and four lane highways, railway projects, commercial tourism and rampant urbanisation have caused unprecedented land use change damaging Himalayan rivers, forests, grasslands and mountains.

 

  1. Local societal and livelihood resilience has been destroyed and replaced with top-down, market dependent and techno-managerial solutions implemented through international loans and maldesigned climate finance projects. These structural and policy changes have disabled the building of financial resilience and autonomy of the Himalayan states. Over the last decade the growing centralisation of power has compromised the constitutional rights of the mountain regions and its peoples. We are seriously concerned about the growing ethnic conflict and social unrest being triggered by divisive government policies, majoritarian communalisation and believe that the resource extraction led ecological crisis has further compounded these conflicts.

 

  1. In the last decade and a half several environmental laws and regulatory/ protective policies have been diluted or eliminated in the name of national security, national interest and ‘green’ growth endangering our ecology and putting under threat the very survival of our people. On the other hand, progressive laws for land allocation, housing rights, forest rights, rehabilitation and relocation of development/disaster affected people and labour laws stand non-implemented. We condemn the repression of voices who have questioned this mindless destruction and the use of labels as anti- national and anti-development to create false narratives.

 

The ‘People for Himalaya’ campaign will work in solidarity for the wellbeing and sustenance of our Himalayan natural heritage – glaciers, rivers, alpine pastures, forests and lands and diverse inhabitants whose identity and survival depend on the Himalaya. We stand in alliance with organisations that support and advocate for democratic and decentralized governance in the Himalaya based on the principles of – sustainability guided by balancing science and indigenous knowledge; gender, caste, ethnic and intergenerational equity; and climate justice.

 

List of endorsing organisations:

 

  1. Affected Citizens of Teesta, Sikkim
  2. AIPWA, Uttarakhand
  3. Appiko-Chipko Movement, Karnataka
  4. Beej Bachao Andolan, Uttarakhand
  5. Bhumi Heen Bhumi Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh
  6. Chamba Van Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh
  7. Climate Front India, India
  8. Climate Front Jammu, Jammu Kashmir
  9. Council for Civic Democratic Engagement, Sikkim
  10. Devalsari Paryavaran Samiti, Uttrakhand
  11. Dibang Resistance, Arunachal Pradesh
  12. Disom Foundation, Nagaland
  13. Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim, Sikkim
  14. Friends of Ladakh, Friends of Nature (FOLFON), Ladakh
  15. Green Circle, Sikkim
  16. Gene Campaign, Uttarakhand
  17. Himal Prakriti – A Trust for Nature, Uttarakhand
  18. Harela, Uttarakhand
  19. Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himachal Pradesh
  20. Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
  21. Him Pragati Foundation, Himachal Pradesh
  22. HimRRA Network, Himachal Pradesh
  23. Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
  24. Indian Community Activists Network, India
  25. Interweave, Sikkim
  26. Jagori Rural Charitable Trust, Himachal Pradesh
  27. Jammu Kashmir RTI Movement, Jammu Kashmir
  28. Joshimath Bachao Sangarsh Samiti, Uttarakhand
  29. Jaladhara Abhiyan, Rajasthan
  30. J&K Chopan Association, Jammu Kashmir
  31. J&K Forest Rights Coalition, Jammu Kashmir
  32. Jol Jongol Jomi (জল জঙ্গল জমি), West Bengal
  33. Kashmir Hikes and Treks, Jammu Kashmir
  34. Kalimpong Krishak Kalyan Sanghathan, West Bengal
  35. Katho Students Union, Manipur
  36. Khoj, Himachal Pradesh
  37. Koshish, Jammu and Kashmir
  38. Kosi Nav Nirman Manch, Bihar
  39. Kyang, Himachal Pradesh
  40. Kalpavriksh, Maharashtra
  41. Local Futures, Ladakh
  42. MAUSAM, India
  43. MKSS, Uttar Pradesh
  44. Mool Sustainability Research and Training Center, Jammu and Kashmir
  45. North East Dialogue Forum, Assam
  46. National Alliance for People’s Movements, India
  47. Nature-Human Centric People’s Movement, Jammu and Kashmir
  48. Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh
  49. Parvatiya Tikau Kheti Abhiyan, Himachal Pradesh
  50. People for Himalayan Development, Himachal Pradesh
  51. People’s Campaign for Social and Economic Equity in the Himalaya, Himachal Pradesh
  52. Save Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
  53. Sambhaavnaa Institute, Himachal Pradesh
  54. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, India
  55. Shimla Collective, Himachal Pradesh
  56. Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh
  57. Spiti Civil Society, Himachal Pradesh
  58. Save the Hills, West Bengal
  59. South Asian Solidarity Collective, Delhi
  60. Tandi Sangharsh Samiti, Himachal Pradesh
  61. The Rainbow Comrades, Himachal Pradesh
  62. Thma U Rangli – Juki (TUR), Meghalaya
  63. Van Gujjar Tribal Yuva Sangathan, Uttarakhand
  64. Un Paso Mas (UPM), Delhi
  65. Uttarakhand Lok Vahini, Uttarakhand
  66. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, Telengana
  67. Wullar Bachao Front, Jammu and Kashmir
  68. Youth for Himalaya, India

 

 

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