Infrastructure development and eco-conservation should go hand-in-hand

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: Balancing economic development with environmental conservation.

Synopsis: Infrastructural development, though necessary, must be rooted in regional ecological and environmental realities.

Context

Infrastructure development in the Himalayan region such as Hydropower is disturbing fragile ecosystem and leading to issues such as landslips, avalanches and the loss of lives and property.

The avalanche in Chamoli in this February, destroyed two power projects and killed at least 200, was only the latest reminder. It has brought attention back to development and conservation dilemma.

Background
  • In the aftermath of the devastating Kedarnath floods of 2013, the Supreme Court ordered a halt to hydroprojects in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins, pending a review on whether they exacerbated the damage.
  • The future of hydroprojects is closely linked to the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) programme. For the health of the river, it must be allowed to flow unimpeded, and hydropower projects are an obstacle.
Present scenario

Division of views b/w ministries: The Water Resources Ministry, which manages the NMCG, is opposed to hydropower projects while the Ministry of Power supports for them. Whenever a group of experts has recommended a cessation of infrastructure development, there is always another group of experts that differ and recommend the opposite.

Way forward

Uttarakhand, like all other States, is not immune from the demands for reliable power and infrastructure from its people. Along with better dialogue, power companies and the Centre must inspire greater trust in the residents of the region.

Infrastructure development will have to necessarily account for the region’s constraints.

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