Greater engagement to save Himalayas: PM

First meeting of Himalayan region states chief ministers to take place in Shimla on Thursday

Saving the Himalayas

Addressing the PM’s council on climate change here on Monday, Singh said while some bilateral initiatives were taken with China and Bhutan, India had to “recognise need for much greater engagement and coordination with all our neighbours which share the Himalayas.”

Singh’s comment comes within days of Beijing setting up a quake-monitoring centre at the foot of the Mount Everest ignoring New Delhi’s request of joint research into the Himalayan earthquakes and weather.

Even though China and India signed a Memorandum of Agreement on bilateral initiatives on climate change last week, the pact exclude the Himalayas.

Lukewarm response

However, when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh visited China two months ago, he is understood to have raised issues related to the fragile Himalayan ecology. The response from the Chinese side was lukewarm.

While a large part of the Himalayan range lie within Indian territory, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Pakistan share the mountain ranges.

Any comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan for the entire Himalayan zone will, of course, require coordinated action among all countries, he said.

The Prime Minister has not only asked the Chief Ministers of the Himalayan states to join in a national effort to safeguard the Himalayan eco-system but also asked them to institutionalise this interaction by making it an annual feature.

The first meeting of the Himalayan Chief Ministers will take place in Shimla on October 29-30 where Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Arunachal Pradesh will participate.

The entire Himalayan zone, including the high mountains, the foothills and the terai area, constitute an extremely fragile ecological zone.

Over the years, there has been steady degradation of this sensitive zone as a result of deforestation, demographic pressures, rapid and often uncontrolled urbanization and road building and construction with only marginal attention being paid to environmental safeguards, Singh said.

These stresses and strains were already beginning to be accentuated by the adverse consequences of Climate Change, he added.

Asking for the involvement of local communities, Singh said they were indispensable in ensuring successful protection of the Himalayan ecology.

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