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Pong Dam Draft ESZ Policy

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  • Context (DTE): A draft eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) policy for the Pong dam was prepared.
  • Locals are against the declaration due to the impact on their livelihood & incomplete rehabilitation.

Pong dam

About Pong Dam

  • Location: Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh
  • It is an artificial reservoir on the Beas River, also known as Maharana Pratap Sagar Dam.
  • The Pong Dam is the highest earth-fill dam in India.
  • It is a Ramsar site, “a wetland of national importance”, and a “wildlife sanctuary”.
  • Pong Dam is significant as a resting place for migratory birds.

Beas River

  • Origin: Near the Rohtang Pass on the southern end of the Pir Panjal Range.
  • It crosses the Dhaola Dhar range and takes a south-westerly direction.
  • It meets the Satluj River at Harike in Punjab.
  • It is a comparatively small river lying entirely within the Indian territory.

ESZ Policy

  • It was first suggested in the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • State governments were advised to designate areas within 10 km of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs).
  • The 10 km limit is general and can vary according to specific cases.
  • ESZ is declared under the Environmental (Protection) Act of 1986.

Restrictions in ESZs

  • Permitted Activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, and adoption of green technology.
  • Regulated Activities: Felling of trees, establishing hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erecting electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g., adoption of heavy technology, pesticides, widening roads.
  • Prohibited Activities: Commercial mining, sawmills, industries causing pollution, establishing major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, hot-air balloons, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.

Ecological Significance of ESZs

  • ESZs rule out harmful interference by construction and industrial activities.
  • It promotes in-situ conservation of endangered species and landscapes.
  • ESZs act as “shock absorbers” around the ecologically fragile area.

Reasons behind opposition

  • This is typical of the development v/s environment debate.
  • ESZs restrict the scope of land use for the construction of developmental structures.
  • Limits on tourism, agriculture and other livelihood practices impact the locals.
  • Mining and other exploration projects are not allowed to impact the state economy.
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