Amid border problems, Ramesh favours Indo-China initiative on glaciers2 February 2010
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Amidst ongoing border problems between India and China, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh today proposed a major programme monitoring initiative between the two countries on the health of glaciers. 'India and China have worked very closely in climate change. I believe this demonstrates that the two countries can be partner in a strategic way to reduce trust deficit that exists, manufactured by media on both sides. We want to continue to work closely to reduce pollution control level of glaciers', Mr Ramesh told reporters at Mansar after participating in a programme on World Wetland Day. 'We canít even look at Himalayan glaciers without the co-operation of China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan', he said, adding India and China could be partners in monitoring health of the glaciers closely. Observing that most glaciers in Himalayas are receding, Mr Ramesh said some of them like Siachen are advancing while others like Gangotri are retreating. 'Health of the glaciers is very poor. Snow and mass accumulation is poor while debris are very large. There is no denying the fact that we have to be concerned about the health of Himalayas', he added. On IPCC report on glaciers, the Minister said it was a scientific body and should be more careful in future. It has not conducted the study properly. The scientific body should perform scientific functions and shouldnít start preaching, he added. On controversial BT Brinjal, Mr Ramesh maintained that a final decision on scientifically developed Brinjal rests with the Government of India. He said six public consultations have been held on BT Brinjal and seventh is scheduled for February 6 at Bangalore to take a decision on commercialisation of the Brinjal. 'Let me make it very clear that scientific body of my Ministry has recommended commercialisation of BT Brinjal but the Ministry of Environment has not taken any final decision so far. Moreover, I canít give personal opinion before 10th of February', the Minister said but reiterated that only the Union Government will take a final decision on this. He said there was a difference between BT Cotton and BT Brinjal as the latter is to be consumed everyday and there are legitimate questions being raised over human safety. Scientists and other concerned persons have also given their view point. On pollution of holy Ganga, Mr Ramesh said the river was facing twin threats to its ĎNirmal Dharaí and ĎAviral Dharaí. Admitting that hydel power projects and dams were having negative impact on Ganga, he said National Ganga River Mission, headed by the Prime Minister will take a decision on three projects-Bhairon Ghat, Pala Maneri and Lohari Nagpala. While work on first two projects is yet to be started, about 40 per cent work has been completed on Lohari Nagpala with an expenditure of Rs 800 crore to Rs 900 crore. He said a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has proposed declaration of 130 kilometer stretch between Gomukh to Uttarakashi as eco sensitive. This proposal is also being considered, he revealed. However, he didnít agree with a questioner that his Ministry was responsible for spoiling environment and forests. According to him, five to six projects on Uttari Tista river in Sikkim have been stopped for the sake of environment. He admitted that tigers population in the country was under threat due to poaching but said his Ministry was taking steps to preserve them. Mr Ramesh announced Rs 3 cr for development of Mansar lake. He said Rs 5 cr for protection of forests in the State this year would be enhanced to Rs 25 crore in next financial year. Speaking to reporters at the same function, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today charged certain forces in the Valley, which donít want to see normalcy in the State, with paying money to youngsters to throw stones. He also denied that the State Government had recommended the name of counter-insurgent Ghulam Mohammad Mir alias Mumma Kana for Padma Shri. 'Unfortunately, there are some forces which donít want normalcy to return in the State. Time and again, they have been precipitating law and order problem. Money is being paid to youngsters to throw stones (on security forces and police). Tippers are being used to dump stones particularly in Old Baramulla, Sopore and Old Srinagar. It is difficult to predict where a teargas shell (fired by the security personnel or police) will fall', he said in response to a question on fresh protests in the Valley over the killing of a boy after being hit by a teargas shell. The Chief Minister observed that the Government has not spared the official who fired the teargas shell and action has been initiated against him. He appealed to the youngsters and those who are directing them not to do this (pelting stones). He ridiculed putting lives of the youngsters to risk to serve their political purpose. However, he didnít name any political party or outfit who were paying money to youths to pelt stones. 'When the people take law and order into their own hands, it is difficult to predict where a teargas shell will fall. Despite our best efforts, such incidents did happen', he averred. On Padma Shri to Ghulam Mohammad Mir alias Mumma Kana, the Chief Minister categorically stated that his Government hadnít made any such recommendation. 'It is possible that at a personal level somebody had recommended him (Mir). But, I enquired from the senior officers of the State Government and no recommendation from the Government has gone for awarding Padma Shri to the person you are talking about', he said. He added that controversy over Padma awards and process of screening is a wider argument that required some amount of discussion. Mr Abdullah said the State Government had recommended the name of Rukhsana, a Rajouri girl who had killed a militant, for bravery. There were some other recommendations but this (Mirís) was not our recommendation, he revealed. To a question about police personnel allowing use of mobile phones and dinner to militants at a dhaba in Kishtwar bus stand recently, he asserted that this was just one incident which canít defame entire force. 'There were some news channels and papers who took money for publicity but this doesnít mean that entire media is bad. There are scandals in Army like recent land scandal but that too canít have a bearing on entire force', he said. He added that the incident has been brought to the light by media and strict action will be taken against the accused. The function was attended among others by Minister for Forests, Mian Altaf Ahmed, Minister of State for Forests, Shabir Ahmed Khan, Minister of State for Tourism, Nasir Aslam Wani, Member Parliament, Madan Lal Sharma, Commissioner-Secretary, Forests, Shantmanu, Principal Conservator of Forests, Keshwani, Union Director of Environment and Wetlands, S. Koul and Deputy Commissioner, Samba, Sourabh Bhagat. Omar said that Government has underlined protection of environment as one of the important sectors and special attention is being focused on restoration of depleted forests, water bodies and wetlands in the State. He expressed gratitude to the Centre Government and the Union Minister for support to the State Government to carry forward its mission of conservation and protection of lakes and forests in the State. The Chief Minister said that youth have special role to play in the stupendous task of maintaining Stateís ecology and bio-diversity. 'You have to educate the people about the importance of water bodies, forests, wetlands, fauna and flora of the State', he told the youth especially students who were present on the occasion at Mansar. Omar said that large quantity of water is being drawn from Mansar lake daily to supply drinking water to people in the areas. 'This has increased pressure on the lake and Government has now approved Rs. 6 crore PHE scheme to relieve the lake from this burden', he added. In his address, Mr Ramesh announced Mahatma Gandhi Chair for ecology and environment studies in Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University. 'In my recent visit to the University, the need for such Chair was brought to my notice by the VC and I feel pleasure to announce the Chair in the University', he said adding that the proposal to this effect has been approved only yesterday by his Ministry. Mr Ramesh further said that his Ministry is also approving Rs. 350 crore project for the protection and preservation of Wullar lake in North Kashmir while as Surinsar-Mansar in Jammu, Sumorari in Ladakh, Hokersar and Wullar in Kashmir have been declared as Ramsar sights for conservation and restoration. 'In the international conference at Ramsar, 25 sights have been approved for preservation in India of which four fall in Jammu and Kashmir', he added. The Union Minister said that he is keen to see the successful implementation of Dal Development Project adding that his Ministry is considering a comprehensive plan of Rs. 1000 crore for world famous Dal lake. 'Money will be no constraint and the sincere efforts by all levels are imperative to ensure successful implementation of projects aimed at restoration of water bodies and protection of forests', he asserted. Mr. Ramesh lauded efforts of the Chief Minister in getting the prestigious projects cleared from various Union Ministries for giving boost to all round development of Jammu and Kashmir. Minister for Forests, Mian Altaf Ahmed, in his speech, highlighted various issues pertaining to restoration of depleted forests and said that the officers have been sensitized at all levels to put in joint efforts in successful implementation of the projects ensuring judicious utilization of funds. 'In the 20 years of disturbance in the State, the forests have received huge damage and we have to restore it and look ahead for massive afforestation', he said.