Guwahati: For first time ever, the Himalayan states of India came together under a common platform titled ‘Conclave of the Himalayan States’ held in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand on Sunday.
Ten out of 11 states falling under the Himalayan region of India participated at the event and unanimously placed a twin demand — a separate ministry to deal with problems endemic to the Himalayan states and a green bonus in recognition of their contribution to environment conservation.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the one-day Himalayan conclave. The event was participated by chief ministers and representatives of the Himalayan states — Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakahand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagalaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. However, Assam could not make it due to the floods that have ravaged the state.
Speaking at the conclave, Meghalaya CM Conrad K Sangma pointed out three central issues that are at the core of development and fiscal challenges being faced by the Himalayan states. Sangma sought recognition of the ecosystem services provided by the states and to provide adequate compensation for the services.
The CM also highlighted the developmental issues faced by the states owning to their geography, terrain, large forest area, lower population density and other related factors. Talking about higher sensitivity of the Himalayan states to natural calamities, Sangma also urged the Central government for a needful approach to appreciate in providing funds for disaster relief and mitigation.
Talking about the burden faced from orders of courts and tribunals, Sangma said that the hill states that deliver largely to ecosystem services are lacking required progress due to the strict regulatory regime around usage of forest land for developmental purposes.
“Meghalaya has been particularly suffering double loss through the 14th Finance Commission period, after the National Green Tribunal’s ban on coal mining in state from 2014, which resulted in an estimated revenue loss of about Rs 4,000 crore in the last five year,” added Sangma.
Highlighting sustainable and environmental conservation development efforts initiated by the state government, Sangma informed that his government has implemented Natural Resource Management Planning across 6,500 villages in Meghalaya.
“We have launched mission mode programmes to improve the production, productivity and marketability of products like fish, milk, muga silk, lakadong turmeric, jack fruit and mushroom. We also launched the ‘Meghalaya One Citizen, One Tree’ initiative to encourage every citizen of the state for planting and taking care of at least one tree,” said the chief minister.
The CM further informed that Meghalaya is the first Indian state to formulate a State Water Policy which enables better manage of water resources and ensures long-term water security and equity. “The state is not able to make full use of its massive water resources because of the hilly terrain, low public investments and limited built-up storage capacity. We are planning to create a large network of decentralised water storage infrastructures in the form of 5,000 small multipurpose reservoirs (SMRs) of varied capacities across the state and investments to the tune of Rs 2,500 crore will be needed for the same,” he said.
Meanwhile, assuring adequate development in all Himalayan states of the country, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed that progress of the hill states is the priority of the central government.
“Special efforts will be made to prevent migration from the interiors and it can be done by providing basic amenities in the remote areas so that people living in the marginal areas of the states work as eyes and ears in the security of the country,” she added.
Among the host of dignitaries attending the conclave were, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Arunachal Pradesh deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein, Mizoram state minister TJ Lalnuntluanga and Tripura state minister Manoj Kanti Deb, along with senior official from other states and centre.
15th Finance Commission chairman NK 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.