In the wake of the recent declaration of 51 villages around Pong Lake as Eco-Sensitive Zones, the region finds itself at the intersection of conservation aspirations and the concerns of local communities. The move, aimed at fostering sustainable solutions, unfolds against a backdrop of historical displacement during the construction of the Pong Dam.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change approved the proposal on April 28, 2022, with a six-month window for objections. Surprisingly, no objections were raised during this period, leading to the official designation of a 114.7 km area within a one-and-a-half-kilometer radius of the Pong Lake Sanctuary as an Eco-Sensitive Zone. This decision brings with it a set of regulations requiring prior approval for any construction activities in the designated area.

The master plan for this Eco-Sensitive Zone, made in collaboration with various government departments, envisions the development of parks to attract tourists. These parks are designed to feature amenities such as swings for children, benches for relaxation, and huts for shelter during adverse weather conditions. The proposal aims to strike a balance between environmental conservation and community well-being.

Villages falling within the newly designated eco-sensitive area include Badhela, Bajhera, Balaghat Gurala, Blohad, Lower Blohad, Sukhnada, Banada, Harsar, Jagnoli, Bariyal, Jakhada, Jalarian, Jambal Bassi, Jarot, Maheba, Kharad, Jawali, Jhonka Ratial, Chabuan, Khabal, Kharad, Lohara, Batahadi, Nangal, Panlath, Papahan, Guglada, Ranital, Road, Dibar, Samkehar, Samleta, Sangoli, Sohda, Tarabteki, Thangar, Guler, Habal, Barla, Ludret, Rajgarh, and more.

While proponents argue that the Eco-Sensitive Zone will enhance tourism, critics express concerns about the potential resurgence of displacement issues. The delicate dance between conservationists and residents adds a nuanced layer to the ongoing conversation about sustainable development and ecological harmony.

As the affected communities grapple with the dual challenge of preserving their environment and safeguarding their homes, the Pong Lake region stands at a crucial juncture, navigating the challenges and opportunities that come with its Eco-Sensitive Makeover. The unfolding narrative promises to shape the future of conservation and community dynamics in this picturesque locale.