News Excerpt
The MoEF&CChas approved the zonal master plan for the Bhagirathi Eco-sensitive zone to expedite the Chaardhaam road project.

Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ):
1.    ESZs are ecologically fragile areas, within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines.  
2.    ESZ are formed to serve as “shock absorber” for protected areas. The basic aim here is to regulate certain activities around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to minimise negative impact on the fragile ecosystem.
3.    Permitted activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy resources. Mining is prohibited and tourism is regulated.
Chaardhaam Road project: It proposes to provide all-weather connectivity to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath, consist of 826 km length, involving an investment of Rs. 12,000 crores.

Zonal Master Plan (ZMP)
•    The Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone notification mandated Uttarakhand government to prepare ZMP to be implemented under the supervision of the Monitoring Committee.
•    The ZMP is based on watershed approach and includes governance in the area of forest and wildlife, watershed management, irrigation, energy, tourism, public health and sanitation, road infrastructure, etc.
•    The approval of ZMP will give a boost to conservation and ecology of the area and also to undertake developmental activities as permitted under ZMP.

Key Concerns
    The Himalayas are extremely fragile. The rocks haven’t consolidated completely. Hill cutting will destabilize the region, if there is a forest loss, debris would flow into the river and making the region extremely vulnerable to landslides.
    The Himalayan region is tectonically active. Indian tectonic plate is subducting under the Eurasian plate. Himalayas falls under seismic zone V; thus, a major earthquake can occur anytime.
    Heavy construction may have devastating impact on regional flora and fauns. It could attribute to the seismic activity.

Lonar Lake
    It is notified as national geo-heritage monument. It has pH of 10.5.
    Recently, the colour of Lonarlake turned pink due to a large presence of the salt-loving 'Haloarchaea' microbes.
    The low level of water may lead to increased salinity and change in the behaviour of algae because of atmospheric changes.
    Lack of oxygen and unavailability of fresh water could have attributed to colour change.
    Season-wise changes occur in water and this might be case with the Lonarlake.