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Unregulated tourism in 12 Himalayan states: National Green Tribunal takes suo motu cognizance

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) at New Delhi took suo motu cognizance of a report to the effect that there is huge damage to the environment in the eco-sensitive Himalayan states due to unregulated tourism activities, which needs to be regulated and checked for sustainable development.

The report said that while tourism generates huge income and also employment, it also results in generation of huge waste which is not scientifically handled, resulting in damage to the fragile ecosystem of Himalayas. Hillocks of garbage can be seen in the peripheries of cities in the said region in absence of requisite facilities to remediate the waste in a scientific manner. This results in release of harmful toxic gases in the atmosphere, contamination of ground water due to formation of leachate and air pollution due to open burning of waste.

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The Bench, headed by Justice A.K. Goel, observed that in view of the unsatisfactory situation projected in the report, after verification of factual situation on the ground, remedial action needs to be taken.

“Accordingly, we direct the GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, Almora, which is tasked with studies of Himalayan region in particular, which includes Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, West Bengal Hills, Meghalaya, Assam Hills, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh to undertake study and to update any study already conducted in light of the inputs available in the above media report. Such study/update exercise may be completed within three months. A report in this regard be provided to the Chief Secretaries of 12 States in Himalayan region as well as to the Secretary, Environment and Secretary, Tourism, Government of India for further action”

-the Bench directed.

The Tribunal has considered the matters relating to environmental safeguards in some of the Eco-Sensitive Zones/area, including some of the areas in Himalayan region, and issued directions in the light of studies, for action plans to prohibit and regulate activities adversely affecting the environment. Prohibitions include constructions beyond capacity of such areas, waste treatment facilities, regulated and limiting traffic etc. The orders and study reports need to be considered in the course of this study, the bench said.

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“Further, we direct the Secretary, Environment, Government of India to conduct an online meeting with the Chief Secretaries of 12 States within one month of the receipt of the report of the G.B Pant Institute as well as other inputs which may be compiled by the MoEF&CC from its own sources to steer preparation of appropriate action plans in all the 12 States, dealing with the mitigation measures to offset the adverse impact of tourism activities on the environment.

A report of compliance be filed with this Tribunal within six months by email. If found necessary, the registry may place the matter before the Bench for further orders”

-the bench further directed while disposing of the application.

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