Himalayan states for new tourist places, separate ministry (2nd lead)

Mussoorie, July 28 (IANS) A conclave of the Himalayan states here on Sunday urged the Centre for development of new tourist destinations, a new central ministry, steps to stop the widespread migration from hill states and green bonus for them considering their contribution in preserving the eco-system.

Chief Ministers and representatives of 10 Himalayan states urged development of new tourist destinations in these states as old hill resorts had reached saturation.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission N.K. Singh and NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar also attended the conference and assured them all necessary help to address the issues related to the Himalayan states.

Briefing the media at the end of conclave, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said the Centre must take early steps to stop the widespread migration from the hills. A separate ministry for the Himalayan states should also be set up, he said.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said the mountainous and hilly Himalayan states faced various challenges due to several factors, like topography and harsh terrain, that contributed to development disability and urged the Centre and the 15th Finance Commission to take these aspects into consideration while allocating funds.

"These states are the sentinels of border security as they share international border with Pakistan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, which poses military and demographic security threats," he said

Stating that Himalayan states contributed to the nation's eco-system through climate regulation, carbon sequestration as well as source of water, the Nagaland Chief Minister said special attention should be given to these aspects.

Hailing the Finance Commission's proposal to increase the state's share in taxes from 42 per cent to 50 per cent, Rio said even with this Nagaland would remain a revenue-deficit state.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conard Sangma said it was important that the Himalayan states come together to push the agenda for growth and development.

Echoing Sangma, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur advocated formulation of a holistic Himalayan policy for sustainable development of these states at par with other states.

On the green bonus issue, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister said the Himalayan states were providing environment security for the country. For providing river waters, clean air and preserving forests, Uttarakhand has been demanding financial support giving it a name of green bonus.

The Himalayan conclave would be held every year, he added.

A Mussoorie resolution was also passed. "The hill states pledge to make endeavour to protect and conserve our rich Himalayan heritage and ethos for the prosperity and well being of the nation," it said.

"We pledge to cherish and nurture the wealth of our biodiversity -- glaciers, rivers, lakes, precious forests and wildlife. We also pledge to preserve our vibrant folkart and crafts, the culture and folklore to pass them on to the next generations," it said.

The resolution also said the Himalayan states would conserve the spiritual legacy of the hill culture and create conducive environment for enrichment of the human spirit.

They pledged to workout strategies for sustainable development of mountain areas, cherish and conserve the history of hill societies and legends and the glory associated with the lofty Himalayas.

"We are proud of this grand heritage and pledge to hand it over in its pristine form to the nation and the world," it said.

-- IANS

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