NGOs seek action on environmentMay 8th, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Issues
Himalayan Niti Abhiyan wants political parties to implement an agenda for sustainable development
‘The stress is on preventing the destructive utilisation of natural resources’
Shimla: The Himalayan Niti Abhiyan, a federation of grassroots environmental movements, has released an alternative vision statement for Himachal Pradesh in the campaign for the Lok Sabha election.
A boy walks with his yak after heavy snowfall in Kufri near Shimla. PTI Photo
Guman Singh, coordinator of the mother NGO, has emphasised sustainable utilisation of natural resources rather than their exploitative and destructive utilisation for the creation of livelihoods.
Mr. Singh said the movement has approached all political parties to implement a pro-people and equitable agenda involving no displacement of people, no loss of local livelihoods and ecology and community control over natural resources.
He said there should be a complete ban on activities that involve destructive use of resources such as cement, unscientific mining, mega hydropower, dams, mega tourism, SEZs and unregulated real estate.
The Himalayan Niti Abhiyan activists, who recently staged a massive rally in Bilaspur, led by the environmentalist Medha Patkar, have expressed their displeasure over the indifference of political parties, especially the BJP and Congress in the hill State.
Mr. Singh said a democratic decision making process should be facilitated by activating institutions of local self-governance such as gram sabhas as mandated by the State Panchayati Raj Act.
The activists have expressed concern over the increasing number of silicosis cases, a lung disease caused by inhaling cement dust, after the mushrooming of cement plants.
But surprisingly the State government in its affidavit to the Supreme Court has claimed that not even a single case of silicosis has been so far reported. It is alleged that physicians here have been told to write tuberculosis in their diagnosis instead of silicosis, so that the big cement plants will not be obliged to implement effective safety measures.
Safety and protection measures in the cement industry are very expensive to implement.
Meanwhile, the State BJP spokesman Ashok Kapatia has claimed that his party fully supports the movement. He said that given the differences in the interpretation of environmental laws between the judiciary and environmentalists, the party was not able to take a one-sided stand on majority ecological issues.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has opposed the installation of hydroelectric projects and cement plants without adequate safety measures and schemes to rehabilitate the displaced population in the hill State.