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Govt to assert eco-sensitive zone along Bhagirathi

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday decided to declare 135-km stretch between Gomukh and Uttarkashi along River Bhagirathi as an "eco-sensitive" zone, prohibiting Uttarakhand Government from setting up any power plant with capacity of more than 25 MW and carrying out mining there.

Noting that a number of hydro power projects have been commissioned, proposed or are under implementation on the sensitive river stretch, Union Environment Ministry sent a draft notification to Uttarakhand government inviting its comments and suggestion on the issue of declaring the ecosensitive zone.

"The said eco-sensitive zone is the area covering 135 km stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi and upto one hundred metres from both banks of the river," according to the notification sent to State Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal "Nishank" by Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. "The eco-sensitive zone will be notified under Section 3(2) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986," Ramesh said in a statement here.

According to the draft notification, "it is likely that there will be an impact on the ecology, flow and character" of Bhagirathi– a major tributary of river Ganga– because of the power plants.

The Bhagirathi originates from Gaumukh and flows for a stretch of about 215 kms in a steep slope before it joins Alakananda at Dev Prayag. The river travels through a deep and narrow gorge in the majority of stretches.

Meanwhile, the Centre has also asked the state government to prepare a zonal master plan for eco-sensitive area within one year.

The master plan should be a reference document for the state-level monitoring committee for any decision to be taken by them for various developmental projects including hydroelectric power projects, the draft said.

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