Himalayan states demand green bonus, separate ministry

Pictorial representation. Photo credit: Reuters

The Himalayan states on Sunday came together at a conclave here to demand a separate Union ministry to deal with problems endemic to them and a green bonus in recognition of their contribution to environmental conservation.

The twin demands formed part of a common agenda of the Himalayan states and a proposal in this regard was handed over to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the end of the conclave, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat told reporters after the event.

Sitharaman inaugurated the one-day Himalayan conclave held here on Sunday.

Chief ministers and representatives of the Himalayan states -- Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, and Manipur -- took part in the conclave. The only absence was of Assam, which has been ravaged by the floods.

It is for the first time that the Himalayan states have come on a single platform to take a unanimous stand on the issue of green bonus and a separate ministry to deal with problems unique to them.

Explaining the rationale behind the demand for a green bonus, Rawat said most of the country's rivers originate in the Himalayas and therefore the states have to play the most significant role in the prime minister's water conservation initiative.

 He said it was also necessary because the Himalayan states' contribution to environmental conservation was the biggest with their green cover.

The states were also at a disadvantage because large swathes of land fell into eco-sensitive zones where all sorts of development activities could not be carried out, Rawat said.

A green bonus thus is needed to compensate the Himalayan states for their disadvantages, he added.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Meghalaya CM Conrad Kongkal Sangma, Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio, Arunachal Pradesh Deputy CM Chowna Mein, Mizoram minister T J Lalnuntluanga and Tripura minister Manoj Kanti Deb, along with senior officials from other states and the Centre were present in the conference.

Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission N K Singh, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar, Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Parameswaran Iyer, member, National Disaster Management Authority, Kamal Kishore, and professor at Indian Institute of Forest Management Madhu Verma, also attended the conclave. 

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