Himachal Pradesh allows construction in green belts, despite risks

01 Oct 2023

The Himachal Pradesh administration has chosen to permit construction in as many as 17 sacred green belts in Shimla after only two months ago dealing with the terrible effects of natural calamities.

In order to permit new developments in the green belt region located above the road from Navbahar to Ram Chandra Chowk, Machhiwali Kothi, Christ Church, Lakkar Bazar, IGMC, and Sanjauli Chowk, the Himachal Pradesh Cabinet altered the Shimla Development Plan (SDP).

The action was taken in response to the unprecedented damage that torrential rains in August inflicted in the state capital. The region's worsening climate and buildings frequently work together to raise the human toll from local calamities. The government had, however, imposed a full embargo on construction operations throughout these belts in December 2000.

To safeguard the deodar trees, the 17 green belts, totaling 414.36 hectares, were shielded from development. Nearly 1,000 deodar trees are thought to have perished as a result of the rains in August that were followed by landslides and flash floods.

The paper claims that only areas devoid of trees are suitable for construction, while the region as a whole is already densely populated with structures and could endanger the forests.

The SDP received approval from the Supreme Court on May 3 and the Cabinet on June 19. The highest court did, however, direct that the notified SDP be postponed until all objections were resolved.

A 2013 report that was based on the environmental impact assessment of the green belts suggested that all construction in Shimla be stopped. The study emphasized the haphazard building that was in full swing, depicting Shimla's decline from the "Queen of Hills" to an urban nightmare.

Numerous sections of Himachal Pradesh had been devastated by the heavy rains that fell in July and August, which also resulted in significant property damage. According to the Economic Times, over 200 individuals died and close to 11,000 homes suffered partial or complete damage.

Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, had stated that it would take his state a year to recover from the harm caused by this year's monsoon season. It was believed that the two disastrous bouts of heavy rain caused a loss of approximately Rs 100 billion.

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