“The Supreme Court stayed the project in the “Fragile” Kumaon Himalayas”

“The Supreme Court stayed the project in the “Fragile” Kumaon Himalayas”

This article covers “Daily current affairs” and the topic details of “The Supreme Court stayed the project in the “Fragile” Kumaon Himalayas”. This topic is relevant in the “Environment and Ecology” section of the UPSC- CSE Exam.


Why in the news?


  • The supreme stayed the project in the ecologically fragile and seismic-prone lower Himalayan ranges by temporarily staying the construction of a 90-acre hotel and township project in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand.


Issues Involved:

  • The petition aimed to halt the initiation of commercial ventures in the State unless they obtained the necessary legal permissions and underwent a thorough Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process.
  • The petitioner posed the question to the court whether it is justifiable to overlook essential precautionary measures aimed at safeguarding a delicate eco-zone simply because a single window clearance has been acquired, particularly for a project located in the environmentally fragile and seismic-sensitive Kumaon Himalayas, situated at an elevation exceeding 6,700 feet above mean sea level.
  • The petitioner cited a notification from September 14, 2006, which emphasised the necessity of obtaining prior environmental clearance before commencing any construction activities. The petitioner argued against granting ex-post facto approval, as it essentially legitimises actions already taken, leading to ecological disasters and should be strongly discouraged.
  • The petitioner raised a significant legal query regarding the feasibility of substituting “single window” clearances for prior environmental clearances and the mandatory submission of approved building plans before initiating large-scale constructions like hotel projects in environmentally sensitive Uttarakhand.


The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) faces several critical issues that threaten its environment and ecology:


  • Environmental Degradation and Deforestation: Extensive deforestation in the IHR disrupts the delicate ecological balance, leading to habitat loss, soil erosion, and disrupted water flow. Rampant construction for infrastructure and urbanisation exacerbates these challenges.
  • Climate Change and Disasters: The IHR is highly sensitive to climate change, with reduced snowfall and rising temperatures altering the timing and availability of water resources. Erratic weather patterns and climatic shifts, including reduced snowfall and increased rainfall,  increased rainfall intensity, and prolonged dry spells, further impact ecosystems and local communities that are prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, landslides, and flash floods, which are exacerbated by poorly planned development and inadequate early warning systems
  • Cultural and Indigenous Knowledge Erosion: The IHR is home to diverse indigenous communities with unique knowledge. However, modernisation can lead to the erosion of these cultural traditions, which often contain valuable insights for sustainable development.
  • Fragile Mountain Environment: Characterized by steep slopes, high seismic activity, and extreme weather conditions, the Himalayan region, including Kumaon, is inherently susceptible to natural disasters. This fragility leaves the environment prone to damage from both natural phenomena and human activities, posing significant risks to local populations.
  • Land Use Changes: Rapid development projects, such as the construction of numerous hydropower projects in Kinnaur district, have led to extensive land use changes.  These alterations, including deforestation and infrastructure development, contribute to heightened vulnerability by disrupting natural ecosystems that increase the more vulnerability of disasters like landslides and floods.
  • Socio-Economic and Cultural Shifts: Post-independence development policies and socio-economic changes, including land reforms and horticulture promotion, have triggered profound shifts in the region’s socio-economic and cultural landscape. These changes have led to a decline in traditional knowledge systems and an increased perception of risk among local communities.
  • Hydropower Projects: Mega hydropower projects are often driven by global institutions and local interests. These projects disproportionately impact marginalised communities and areas such as Moorang and Pooh in Kinnaur, heightening susceptibility to erosion and landslides, particularly in the vicinity of project sites. These alterations, including deforestation and infrastructure development, contribute to heightened vulnerability by disrupting natural ecosystems and enhancing the risk of disasters like landslides and floods.


A new version of the existing EIA  Notification of 2006, The Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, aims to streamline and strengthen the environmental clearance process in India. The draft notification introduces several significant changes, including post-facto approval, which allows projects that have started without obtaining prior environmental clearance to seek approval after commencement, and a departure from the existing notification where such projects were deemed illegal.


Questions raised on the Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 on  the following grounds  :


  • Reduced public consultation period: Shortening the time period for public responses during public hearings from 30 days to 20 days, which could impact the effectiveness of public participation in the decision-making process
  • Changes in compliance reporting: Requiring project proponents to submit compliance reports annually instead of every six months and allowing these reports to be prepared solely by the project proponents without oversight, which could lead to inaccurate information and reduced accountability
  • Exclusion of certain projects from public consultations: The draft notification excludes a specific category of projects from the requirement of public consultations, raising concerns about transparency and public participation in decision-making for these projects
  • Consolidation of EIA rules: The draft notification aims to consolidate existing EIA rules, potentially alleviating some ambiguity in the present law. However, it has been criticised for compromising on environmental sustainability principles, such as the precautionary principle, and for limiting public engagement in safeguarding the environment.


The Draft EIA Notification 2020 represents a significant evolution in environmental governance in India, but its provisions have sparked debates among environmentalists, activists, and policymakers about the potential impacts on sustainable development and environmental protection.


Several crucial steps should be taken by following these methods to safeguard the ecological fragility of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR):


  • Differentiated Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): The Indian Himalayan Region requires its own EIA process tailored to its unique vulnerabilities and ecological significance. Currently, the region is not given special consideration in the existing EIA framework despite its distinct needs and fragility.
  • Graded Approach and Environmental Standards: Implement a graded approach that considers the specific risks and ecological importance of the IHR. This includes setting differentiated environmental standards for projects in the region, taking into account its susceptibility to extreme weather conditions, seismic activity, and the impacts of climate change.
  • Inclusion of Local Communities: Involve local communities in all stages of the EIA process, from screening to appraisal, to ensure their insights into the potential impacts of projects are considered. This can lead to more ecologically sound and socially responsible project decisions.
  • Ecosystem-Based Approaches: Embrace ecosystem-based approaches to development in the IHR. Recognise that the region is not just a resource base but also plays a crucial role in maintaining regional and national ecosystems. Policies should prioritise the protection and sustainable use of these ecosystems.
  • Sustainable Tourism Development: Promote sustainable tourism practices in the IHR to minimise environmental impact and preserve the region’s ecological balance. This includes measures like using solar energy, promoting organic produce, waste recycling, and maintaining cleanliness to ensure tourism development aligns with ecological sustainability.


Download plutus ias current affairs eng med 22nd May 2024


Prelims based Question:


  1. Consider the following statements:
  1. Black carbon is one of the factors that cause the melting of ice in the Himalayas region.
  2. Deep and steep terrain leads to Landslides in the Kumaon region.


Which of the following statement/s is/are leading to loss of life and damage to the infrastructure?


  1. 1 Only
  2. 2 Only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2


Answer: C


Mains based Question:


  1. Why is Environmental impact assessment (EIA) not able to effectively address the natural disasters continuously occurring in the “Fragile” ecosystem across the country? Critically analyse.
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