Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone

The ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change (MoEF&CC) has approved the “Zonal Master Plan (ZMP)” for Bhagirathi Eco-sensitive zone, to expedite the ‘Chaardhaam Road Project’.

Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive zone stretches from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi covering an area of 4179.59 square Km.

Chaardhaam Road Project

The Chaardhaam project was proposed to provide the all-weather connectivity to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. It has total 53 projects of 826 Km length. The total cost of the project is around 12,000 crores.

Background

The Bhagirathi Eco-sensitive zone was declared by the Environment ministry to protect the entire fragile Himalayan region, along the stretch of river Bhagirathi from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi.

In this Eco-sensitive zone, the activities like riverbed mining, hydropower projects of over 2MW and change of land use were restricted. However, this notification was amended in 2018 following Uttarakhand Government’s objection that the earlier notification was ‘anti-development’.

The 2018 amendment approved change of land use to meet the local needs and  infrastructure development in large public interest and national security with the prior approval of state government with due study of Environment Impact.

Bhagirathi River

Bhagirathi is the source stream of Ganga. It emerge from Gangotri glacier at Gaumukh at an elevation of 3,892m.

Zonal Master Plan (ZMP)

The zonal master plan is a participatory planning based on watershed approach and it includes governance in the area of forest and wildlife, watershed management, irrigation, road infrastructure, public health and sanitation, energy, tourism, etc.

Concerns

This Zonal Master plan approval could make the entire Bhagirathi region vulnerable for natural disasters. The following major concerns are as follows:

  1. Landslides As per a report prepared by Ecological Survey of India after the Kedarnath Disaster, road construction in mountains may reactivates the landslides.
  2. Earthquake The Himalayas lies in seismic zone V, thus a major earthquake can happen anytime.

Conclusions

The approval of ZMP is expected to expedite the construction of Chaardhaam Road Project and to give a boost to conservation and ecology of the area and also to undertake development activities permitted under ZMP.

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