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Development policies dark cloud for Himachal

Locals question whether the state needs many national highways that ‘destabilise’ hills.

Statesman News Service | Chandigarh |

As retreating monsoons bring heavy rains that have thrown life out of gear over last two days in Himachal Pradesh, the hill state, it seems, has none but “unmindful” development policies to blame.

For the second time during the current monsoon period rains have triggered landslides and consequently blocked more than 150 roads. They have left people stranded in many places, especially Kullu district which saw the raing waters of Beas flooding the national highway.

The gushing waters of swollen rivers and rivulets in Himachal are apprehended to have many bridges, putting lives of people, who cross over them in vehicles or on foot, at risk. A large number of drinking water supply systems too have been damaged, hitting supply in urban as well as rural areas.

Over the years the damage due to rains has visibly increased in the ecologically fragile mountain state which has witnessed excessive construction activities. Those activites included cutting of hills for widening of roads.

Ruthless mining too is reported to have gone unchecked despite much hullabaloo by some political leaders.

Besides, the hills have been blasted at many places to make tunnels in the name of run-of-the-river hydro projects. Environmentalists feels that it not only added to the fragility of mountain state, some of them, have badly affected river ecology.

More so, lakhs of trees had been destoyed by hydropower projects that came up some years ago, inundating large chunks of forest land. Though the execution of hydropower projects was stopped few years ago, many projects commissioned in the last decade were evidently not checked for violations of environmental safeguards.

Meanwhile, Himachal Pradesh Power minister Anil Sharma clarified: “Earlier environmental clearances were not too difficult to get. However, now the Government of India has become very strict over environment impact assessment so that prospective damaged can be assessed and taken care of.”

Some locals questioned: “Do we actually need many national highways (69) in Himachal Pradesh? The state is known for its beauty and serpentine roads that tourists enjoy to climb. Can’t those be maintained well? Will the construction of more highways not destabilise our hills as we are using heavy earth moving machinery to cut them without taking adequate safeguards.”

According to Geological Survey of India, 97.42 per cent of Himachal Pradesh area is susceptible to landslides ~ a factor that environment engineers say vital to be kept in mind while taking up any development activity.