Green tax to save Himalayan ecology

[lang_en]Shimla: Alarmed by the recent havoc wrecked by climate changes in sensitive Himalayan eco-zones, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has turned environment protection into a priority area, setting up a fund for it – a one of its kind initiative in the country.

Cabinet colleagues, shortly after giving a nod to setting up of an environment fund, on Saturday became the first to commit a voluntarily contribution of Rs 100 per month towards it, in lieu of the cars they own.

A day earlier mooting the proposal at a workshop, the chief minister lamented the nations attitude towards environmental issues saying, “we are unpaid custodians for rendering environmental services and our efforts to conserve the green cover is not being duly compensated by the central government.”

“For a start I turn to the state residents,” said Dhumal, “in concern for the damage fossil fuels cause to the environment, vehicle owners could voluntarily pitch in a green cess. The corpus collected would be used solely for environment protection and promotion,” he said.

Professor NH Rabindranath, chairman sustainable technologies centre at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore at the same workshop set alarm bells ringing when he disclosed that scientific models forecast a rise of as high as 6 degree Celsius in mean temperature in the Himalayan zone by as early as 2050.

Effects of such a scenario are becoming visible as an unusually long rainy season through the year has left the states road, electricity, drinking water and irrigation infrastructure fractured. The losses still being counted have already surpassed Rs 2000 crores.

“Cropping of apples, wheat, rice and other fruits will be hit as it beings to rain more, says the scientist, “and temperature sensitive forestry including the majestic deodar trees may wither away.”

However, the leadership here is one of the few states where concern for environment is high and an environment fund is a mature way of sensitizing people about it, said Rabindranath.

The governments move for a green cess is justified but just picking on private vehicle owners is not, differs Ajay Vaidya, a lawyer. Under a High Court ruling a green cess on cars is already being imposed in Manali and is a norm in many countries.

To validate a green tax in the state, cement units which are the biggest pollutants in the state and other industries that have been identified as environmentally unfriendly should be brought into the ambit, said Vaidya.[/lang_en]

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