Demand Charter for Himalayan States: Elevating the Urgency of Environmental Preservation in Election Discourse

Himachal Flood

As the nation gears up for the pinnacle of democratic expression, the forthcoming elections, there’s a conspicuous absence of a critical issue from the political discourse – the preservation of the Himalayas. While political contenders shower promises ranging from populist schemes to nationalist fervor, the Himalayas, our ecological lifeline, remain sidelined.

Recently, a coalition of social and environmental activists, alongside people’s organizations from the Himalayan states, unveiled a Demand Charter aimed at thrusting the conservation of this vital ecosystem onto the electoral agenda. This initiative, spearheaded by the People for Himalaya Campaign, resonates as a clarion call for political commitment towards forging a path to a disaster-free Himalayan region.

This grassroots movement transcends political affiliations, with stakeholders hailing from diverse backgrounds, united by a common goal – safeguarding the Himalayas from the ravages of climate change-induced disasters. Melting glaciers, receding water bodies, and the looming specter of floods and landslides demand immediate attention, yet political narratives remain conspicuously silent on these pressing issues.

The Himalayas, often viewed through the narrow prism of tourism or strategic significance, bear the brunt of developmental agendas without commensurate attention to the ecological balance. This shortsighted approach is evident in the aftermath of calamities, where the mainstream media momentarily shines a spotlight, only to retreat into silence thereafter.

The Demand Charter, a culmination of deliberations among 67 organizations and activists, underscores a collective vision for a sustainable Himalayan future. It beckons policymakers to prioritize environmental concerns in policy formulation, nudging them towards a paradigm shift where development harmonizes with conservation.

Environmental activist Sonam Wangchuk’s recent protest in Ladakh underscored the mounting urgency. Wangchuk’s impassioned plea for conscientious development resonates across the Himalayan expanse, where communities grapple with the perils of unchecked industrialization.

The erosion of glaciers, epitomized by Dudhganga’s plight in Kashmir, serves as a stark reminder of the ecological cost of apathy. The Wanton exploitation of natural resources, coupled with bureaucratic inertia, imperils not just the environment but also the livelihoods of indigenous communities.

Across the Himalayas, from Arunachal to Ladakh, voices unite in a chorus for environmental justice. Whether in Assam, grappling with the ramifications of rampant dam construction, or Sikkim, witnessing the encroachment of mega projects, the narrative remains consistent – a plea for preservation.

As the elections loom large, the Demand Charter stands as a litmus test for political commitment to environmental stewardship. Failure to heed this clarion call risks relegating the Himalayas to mere collateral damage in the pursuit of progress.

In the crucible of democracy, where the fate of nations hangs in the balance, let the preservation of the Himalayas emerge as a pivotal issue, transcending political divides and forging a path towards a sustainable future. The time for action is now, for the Himalayas embody not just our ecological heritage but also our collective destiny.


People for Himalaya campaign is an initiative of progressive groups, civil society organisations and activists from the region. The campaign is not affiliated with any political party. 


• A complete moratorium on all mega infrastructure projects like railway, dams, hydro projects, and four lane highways, tunnelling, transmission lines – and conduct a 360-degree multidisciplinary review of the impacts of existing projects 

• Democratic decision making through referendums and public consultation on large infrastructure by strengthening the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 1994 (Scrapping the EIA 2020 Amendments & FCA 2023 Amendments); Free Prior informed consent of Gram Sabhas to be mandatory for all developmental projects 

• Terrain Specific Disaster and Climate Risk Studies and land susceptibility assessments to be mandatory for land use change for urbanisation, commercial development and public infrastructure construction 

• Just Implementation of 2013 Right to Fair Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 

• To ensure participation of citizens, civic bodies and Gram Sabhas in monitoring pollution and land use change works like stone crusher, sand-gravel mining, mineral mining, debris dumping, construction of local roads and every commercial construction work. 


• Strengthening of state laws and regulations that protect the private and community resource rights of nature dependent communities – example Van Panchayat Rules in Uttarakhand 

• Complete the Unfinished land reforms and land regularisation agendas to provide secure land tenure to landless and displaced communities to practice land based livelihoods – example Nautor rules in Himachal Pradesh 

• Just implementation of constitutional provisions and laws that support the decentralised, autonomous and democratic governance and decision making – example the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2006 and other constitutional provisions 

• Protection of pastoral communities especially minority communities like the Van Gujjars and Bakarwals in migratory routes 

• Strengthen floral and faunal biodiversity through Community Forest Resource Rights governance framework under FRA 2006 – convert pine monocultures into broad leaf forests to address fodder scarcity, forest fires and soil erosion. Five ‘f’ species should drive plantations i.e. fruit, fodder, fertilizer, fuel, fiber and medicinal plants. Weed eradication programs for pasture development 


• Gram Sabhas, Panchayats, municipal bodies to be involved in disaster governance – not through superficial preparedness trainings but regular sharing of information on latest risk studies and consultations on climate adaptation strategies; disaster risk mitigation and the work carried out under the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem 

• Ensuring the participation and representation of all vulnerable and marginalised communities in these public consultations • Put in place mechanisms for transparency and accountability of climate proofing projects 

• Obligatory public disclosure of Hydrological data of the Himalayan River Basins; Air and Water Pollution data of all industrial belts, commercial and tourism centres 


• Build financially remunerative agro-ecological livelihoods that are accessible to all: for example wool, meat and dairy production by strengthening pastoralism and animal husbandry’ other cottage industries; Decentralised Solar and other energy systems 

• Dispersed, environment sustaining and economically remunerative responsible tourism regulated collectively by communities respectful of the region’s carrying capacity 

• Implementation of the Plastics/Solid/Liquid Waste Management Rules; Building consciousness on production and management of waste in urban areas; for tourists • Reviving collective systems of resource use and management – upskilling based on balance between indigenous knowledge and modern science

• Formation, regular updating and implementation of state climate action plans • Promotion, facilitation of human work force (traditional manual mining), light machines in place of big excavators in mining, road building other construction projects. Effective debris, muck disposal policy ensuring minimum generation and maximum reuse. 

• Protection of labour rights especially migrant labour and putting in place legal mechanism for proper implementation of SC/ST Sub plans in mountain states. 

• Protecting riverine ecosystems, environmental flows and rights protected only for drinking and local existing irrigation schemes. 

• Reorganisation of Panchayats on the basis of watershed boundaries not merely on the basis of population 


• Creation of a dedicated disaster response fund over and above the right to funds and other help from the Union government 

• Apart from Rescue and Recovery strengthening Post Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation as per the provisions of Disaster Management Act 2005 

• Time bound and full Central Government Support to Himalayan states in case of extreme events – Provide time bound exemptions under the Forest Conservation Act 1980 for treatment of disaster affected private lands and rehabilitation of disaster displaced to safe areas (a land swap policy) and scrap 

• Support to and acknowledgment of the role of decentralised /community controlled disaster action and response – Mahila Mandals, Youth Clubs and Panchayats 

• Fixing Accountability and Culpability – Dam Safety Act 2022 to be made applicable for all existing dams in the state; Restructuring and functionalising institutions like Central Water Commission, State Committee on Dam Safety (SCDS), State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO), Met Department, Central and State Pollution Control Boards, State Disaster Management Authority etc – Penal action in case of violations of norms 

• Strengthen and strictly enforce the rules and environmental norms for all developmental works – like stone crushers, sand-gravel mining, river training and dredging, river front development projects, debris dumping and every commercial construction work.

About The Author:
Aman Namra, a seasoned Development Journalist with a remarkable three-decade career, has made significant contributions in the field. As the Incharge and Resident Editor of the prominent National Development Communication Network “Charkha,” headquartered in Delhi, Aman has played a pivotal role in advancing the organization’s mission. Notably, “Charkha” was established by the renowned social worker Sanjoy Ghose, whose life was tragically cut short by Ulfa Extremists.

Aman’s commitment to fostering knowledge and awareness extends beyond the editorial desk. He has conducted approximately 50 media workshops across multiple states, including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, and Uttar Pradesh. These workshops have engaged journalists, social activists, and thought leaders, reinforcing the importance of Development Journalism.

Recognized as an authority in the field, Aman has been invited to share his insights on Development Journalism at prestigious institutions such as the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Lady Irwin College in Delhi, and Makhan Lal National University in Bhopal. His expertise and experiences are highly regarded in academic circles.

Aman’s influence extends to the realm of the written word. He has penned over 100 articles covering a diverse range of topics, which have been published in various newspapers and magazines. His literary accomplishments include the authorship of two books on traditional water harvesting, both published by esteemed institutions, the National Book Trust and the National Foundation of India in Delhi.

Aman’s commitment to knowledge exchange and cross-border understanding is exemplified by his selection as a South Asia Media Exchange Fellow. During his fellowship, he conducted research in Nepal, focusing on traditional water harvesting and natural foresting systems, thereby contributing to regional knowledge and sustainable practices.

Today, Aman continues to shape the media landscape as the Executive Editor of Digital Media at Dainik Bhaskar, headquartered in Bhopal. His extensive experience and unwavering dedication to Development Journalism continue to leave a lasting impact on the industry.

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