37% of the Western Ghats "ecologically sensitive"
Acting on the recommendations of the second committee on the Western Ghats headed by Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan, the Environment Ministry is going to declare one-third of the region as ecologically sensitive. This would mean that no polluting industry including mining and thermal power, will be allowed in 60,000 square kms of the Ghats across six states. Once notified, this region would be the biggest protected forest in the country. The first committee on the Ghats, the Madhav Gadgil Committee, had recommended that the entire Western Ghats be declared eco-sensitive.
Gujarat government diverts Narmada water for industry
About 80,000 hectares of irrigated agricultural land in the command area of the Narmada canals in the state has been denotified to develop industrial zones. The total irrigated land falling under the command area was 1.84 million hectares. Once denotified, this agricultural land, where farmers were growing three crops a year, will have industrial clusters. Farmers and opposition leaders across North Gujarat where the Narmada canals provided irrigation are protesting this move but with little result.
Government to spend Rs. 450 crores for godowns under MNREGA
To smoothen the supply and plug leakage of food grains under the public distribution system, godowns will be constructed at the block level through the country, the Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh announced this week. The godowns, with an initial capacity of 1.5 million tones, will be constructed under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarentee programme at a cost of Rs 450 crores. The average capacity of such godowns will be 3,400 tonnes and foodgrain to meet three month’s requirement could be stored in them.
Ministry employs choppers to map aquifers
The Water Resource Ministry has initiated a project to measure groundwater reserves in the country, with the help of choppers. Using what is known as the Aerial Geophysical technique, the chopper will measure the depth of groundwater by measuring the magnetic field in a particular area. The 41-crore pilot project is part of the National Project on Aquifer Management. The mapping has begun in Dausa in Rajasthan and will cover five more places selected on the basis of soil types and topography.
Stop construction in wetlands: Bombay HC
The Bombay High Court has told the state government to ban construction on all the wetlands identified by the Central government in the wetland atlas map. The Court asked the state Urban Development Department to stop all ongoing constructions too. The wetland atlas of India has been prepared by the Indian Scientific Research Organisation but the Maharashtra government had not accepted it till now. The HC told the state to prepare their own map in case they do not agree with this atlas.
This is a weekly roundup of policy matters from October 14-20. Also read last week's news roundup.