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Assessing the Carrying Capacity of Himalayan States and Eco-Sensitive Zones

(SYLLABUS RELEVANCE: GS 3: Environment and Biodiversity)

Why is it in the news?

Recently, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has proposed the formation of a 13-member technical committee to evaluate the ‘carrying capacity’ of 13 Himalayan states, including cities and eco-sensitive zones.


  1. This initiative comes in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking planned development and conservation in the Himalayan region.
  2. It aims to address concerns about unplanned growth in the fragile Himalayan region.
  3. The guidelines for assessing carrying capacity were prepared by the G.B. Pant National Institute Himalayan Environment, an institute operating under the MoEF.

Definition of Carrying Capacity

  1. Carrying capacity refers to the maximum population size that an ecosystem can sustain without degradation.
  2. Environmental factors such as food, shelter, water, and mates determine this capacity. If these needs are not met, the population will decrease until the resources can support it.

Himalayan States and Eco-Sensitive Zones

  1. The Indian Himalayan Region spans 13 states and union territories, including Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Assam, and West Bengal, covering a distance of 2500 km.
  2. This region is home to nearly 50 million people and is known for its diverse demographics and economic, environmental, social, and political systems.

Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) and Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs)

  1. In 2002, the MoEF established Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) around Protected Areas and Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) with unique biological resources.
  2. These zones aim to protect biodiversity in ecologically significant areas.
  3. The MoEF has notified ESZs under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, based on proposals and recommendations from State Governments.
  4. Section ‘3’ of the ESZ Notification outlines guidelines for the preparation of Zonal Master Plans (ZMP) by respective State Governments.

Status of ESZs in Himalayan States

  1. Currently, there are 2 ESAs and 92 ESZs notified in the 13 States of the Indian Himalayan Region.
  2. These designations are intended to facilitate the conservation and management of biodiversity in these ecologically sensitive areas.
    National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem
About Part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change
Ecological SignificanceI) Vital for ecological security of India

II) Preserves rich biodiversity

III) Provides water security (world’s third ice pole)

IV) Influences weather patterns in the subcontinent

Mission ObjectivesI) Address Himalayan Glaciers and hydrological consequences

II) Conservation and protection of biodiversity

III) Conservation and protection of wildlife

IV) Preservation of traditional knowledge societies

V) Planning for sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem

Tourism RegulationsI) Proposes measures to regulate tourist inflows

II) Ensure that tourism remains within mountain ecology’s carrying capacity

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