SDC Foundation conducted its third edition of the webinar series, ‘SDC Dialogs’, on 10 September 2020.

The third edition was a very special one, as it was conducted keeping in mind the special occasion of ‘Himalaya Divas’ which is celebrated every year on 9 September. The day marks the importance of Himalayas and states present in the Indian Himalayan State. It also calls for conservation of the Himalayan ecosystem.

(Designed by: Radhika Sinha)

The session was themed “Beyond the Courtroom: Conserving Himalayan Ecosystem”, and the session was moderated by Gautam Kumar, Research Analyst at SDC.

The series has previously seen enthusiastic participation from civil society and government leaders – engaging in a valuable discussion over various aspects of environmental protection, urban governance, waste management and citizen engagement.

This time, the 3rd edition of the Dialogs saw the participation of Advocate Rakshit Joshi, who spoke about the importance of the Himalayas to the nation and the necessity of striking an ecological balance in the mountains.

Rakshit Joshi is a committed social lawyer who has been advocating for sustainable development in Uttarakhand for the past several years. He is particularly well known for his contribution in the famous PIL that aimed at protecting Uttarakhand’s “Bugyals” from private encroachment and ill-treatment. He filed the petition against the infamous Gupta Brothers wedding that was organized in 2018 in Auli, Uttarakhand. The event ended up generating tons of plastic waste in the sensitive ecosystem and bugyals.

“Buglays” are well known in Uttarakhand as little patches of green ecosystem high up in the mountains, and that happens to be very eco-sensitive. Advocate Rakshit Joshi has fought against the State Government, to safeguard such “Bugyals” from encroachment by private parties whose merrymaking activities had negatively impacted their ecosystem.

Praising the Himalayas as the “heritage of the world”, he stated that it is of utmost importance that these grand mountains be protected at all costs – as he tried to in the case of the “Bugyals”, which were successfully rehabilitated and protected post his PIL win.

Rakshit Joshi also emphasized on the need to have a well defined legal framework for protecting bugyals. He shared that there is no well-structured definition for bugyals which results in weak policy and implementation. Rakshit said that we have to think of specific laws as we have for coastal zones or wetlands.

The course of conversation in this edition of SDC Dialogs went on to cover the necessity of a strong system of governance, one that can give strength to the existing biodiversity act and regulate external activity in the mountains, especially mass tourism, with the intention of preserving the ecological balance in the ranges.

Many a time, it has been observed publicly that most of our country’s mountain states lack solid infrastructure, especially one that is required to handle growing waste and devise better methods of waste disposal plus segregation. This, though an issue of executive concern, holds immense power in the hands of citizens, opined Rakshit Joshi. Citizen engagement must be done to catalyze behavior change and speed existing processes.

Thus, by touching upon grave matters of Himalayan concern, such as sustainable tourism, citizen engagement, and courtroom contribution to the protection of the mountains, SDC Dialogs 3.0 ended on a thoughtful note, urging each of us to take responsibility and act with respect for the grand Himalayas, the heritage of our world.

(By: Upasana Ray)

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