Monday, June 22, 2009

Jairam pledges to fund fully Rs. 1,100-cr Dal cleaning, rehabilitation


  1. Omar gets Jairam’s assurance on environment protection package from Centre
  2. Rs. 600-cr FMP to be funded by Japan,
  3. Rs. 386-cr Wullar Cleaning Project,
  4. Rs. 250-cr Action Plan for Jhelum cleaning to be fast-tracked’
  5. Dal Cleaning Project would be completed within next two years
  6. Promises to fund entire Rs. 1,100 cr Dal cleaning, rehabilitation project, liberal funding for other projects
  7. State to set up J&K Compulsory Authority to utilize Rs. 181 crore of State’ share for compulsory afforestation project
  8. Rs. 386 crore Wullar project will be expedited
  9. Rs. 250 crore Jhelum Cleaning project to be taken up on Ganga/Yamuna Plan analogy
  10. Promises to protect snow leopard, hangul
  11. Workshop on Himalayan Glacial retreat in mid-September to identify extent of retreat, suggest remedial measures
  12. Rs. 600 crore Japan-funded Forestry Management Project to be expedited for clearance by other Union ministries

At a jam-packed press conference addressed jointly by Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah and Union Minister for Environment and Forest Mr. Jairam Ramesh on the banks of world-famous Dal lake, both the leaders agreed to work proactively so that projects taken up for conservation of lakes and forests in the State are completed in a time-bound manner. Promising Centre’s full support in protecting J&K’s environment and forests., Mr. Ramesh said 40 per cent work of the Rs. 300-crore Dal cleaning project has been accomplished, adding the remainder will be completed within the next two years.

The Union Environment Minister disclosed that the State government will create a State Compulsory Afforestation Management Authority shortly so that J&K is in a position to utilize its share of Rs. 181 crore collected by CAMPA for compulsory afforestation projects.

Giving a detailed overview of the prestigious Dal restoration plan, the Union Environment Minister said that after jointly air surveying the lake with Chief Minister and by boat, he realized that Dal is not only a lake that needs to be cleansed but an eco and a social system that embeds large number of wetlands and nearly 10,000 families. “In Phase I, the Central government has funded entire Rs. 300 crore for cleaning of the project. While visiting the lake, I have observed that large section of the lake have been cleaned. The State government today presented a comprehensive proposal of Rs.1,100 crore to save ecosystem of Dal lake by cleaning and rehabilitation of 10,000 families. We need to find the remaining Rs.800 crore for resettlement and rehabilitation of the Dal dwellers,” he said.

Mr. Ramesh said he and the Chief Minister were in total agreement that those who will be relocated should not only be given plots of land but offered houses as well. “ I have requested the State government to prepare a proposal and I assure that I will take up the matter with the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Planning Commission to see that the entire Rs.1,100 crore is funded by the Centre,” he said.

Mr. Ramesh said three STPs have been set up on Dal and added that the State government is procuring heavy duty de-weeding machines from Finland so that the water of the lake is cleaned in express time. He said he has suggested to the Chief Minister that IIT Rourkee, the institute which made the DPR of the Dal-cleaning project in 2000, be requested to see what work has been done and what more needs to be done. “Also J&K State Pollution Control Board provides quarterly reports on progress of the project,” he said, adding that these reports should be made public so that people have an idea of the status of the work.

Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said the government is exploring an extensive programme to upgrade the degraded forest cover of the State. “Extensive portions of our forest area is degraded. We are examining ways and means to implement a project for up-gradation of degraded State forests,” the Chief Minister disclosed, adding that Rs. 181 crore deposited with CAMPA under State’s share would be fully utilized in this direction.

The Union Minister suggested to Chief Minister that the State government should also recommend for a special grant to J&K for implementing the historic Dal project. “The 13th Finance Commission is visiting J&K this week. I suggest the State government recommend for a special grant for implementing the project,” he added.

Expressing concern over dwindling of Wullar lake, which used to be once the largest freshwater lake in Asia, the Union Environment Minister said he attaches highest priority to the restoration of the Wullar lake. “Wullar is the mother of all lakes. The State government has submitted a proposal to Government of India worth Rs.386 crore to conserve the lake. I assure him that my ministry will put full weight to see that the proposal for funding of the project goes through, he said. He said he understands the strategic significance of the lake, adding it deserves its due owing to its large size which is 3½ times that of the Dal Lake.

On the Action Plan for cleaning of river Jhelum, the Union Minister said the plan is under discussion and that he would like to take up the project on the analogy of Ganga and Yamuna cleaning plans. “The estimated cost of the cleaning project is Rs.250 crore which envisages setting up STPs at Anantnag, Baramulla, Sopore and Srinagar,” he said, adding that the Chief Minister had agreed to prepare a detailed project report in this regard.

The Union Minister said he will also taken up with the Union Finance Ministry issue of funding of World Bank projects for integrated watershed development programmes.

On the issue of Forests, Mr. Ramesh said the State government had brought some important projects awaiting clearance from Centre. He said a Forestry Management Project estimated to cost Rs. 600 crore by the Japanese government under the aegis of Japan International Cooperative Agency is pending clearance for two years. “The project has been cleared by Union Environment Ministry. I will take up the issue with Union Finance Ministry so that the project is fast-tracked,” he said.

Mr. Ramesh said that the following Supreme Court decision, a Compulsory Afforestation Management Planning Authority (CAMPA) has been created. “Any promoter whether public or private, who diverts forest land to non-forest land, is required to deposit money for compulsory afforestation,” Mr. Ramesh said.

The Union Minister said the State’s share of Rs.181 crore out of Rs.11,000 crore collected by CAMPA nationwide would be made available for compulsory afforestation to J&K soon. “I have met the Attorny General. We are in the process of facilitating use of CAMPA money for compulsory afforestation. The Chief Minister has agreed to set up State Compulsory Afforestation Authority in the coming few days,” he revealed.

He said the issue of retreating of Himalayan glaciers is a serious one as it links with depleting water levels in the country. He said the Centre is monitoring the situation through the help of satellites and will organize a national-level workshop to present the results of the study. “Geologists of Jammu and Kashmir universities are associated with the study. By mid-September, we will be able to tell the extent of retreat of Himalayan glaciers,” he said, assuring that a mechanism would be worked out to prevent the retreat to a point where water level becomes a problem

On the other issues, Mr. Ramesh said he has assured the Chief Minister that snow leopard and hangul would be protected as these are dear to his heart.

Later, taking queries from media persons, Mr. Ramesh said he was satisfied with the pace of work in the first phase of Dal cleaning project.

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