J&K Exits World Bank Project Over ‘disputed Territory’ Tag31 January 2011
Times of India
Jammu: The Jammu & Kashmir government has abandoned the Rs 740 crore integrated watershed development project after the World Bank sought a disclaimer from the Union government that the aid plan would not recognize India's territorial claim over the state. The three-phase project meant to control soil erosion was signed between the Jammu & Kashmir government and World Bank in 1992. Two tranches of Rs 300 crore each were released by 1996, but the remaining Rs 740 crore was in abeyance. Curiously, it was only in 2009 that the World Bank asked for a disclaimer before releasing funds for the third phase. 'We have given up on aid for the project. We had approached the Union government in 2009 for a disclaimer undertaking to be given to the World Bank. The Central leadership had promised us that it would ask the World Bank to drop the clause, but there was no progress. So we decided to give up the project,' Jammu & Kashmir forest minister Mian Altaf Ahmad told TOI. Altaf Ahmad, along with some MPs from J&K, had met finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in the summer of 2009 regarding World Bank's precondition for releasing remainder loan. Ahmad said Mukherjee had assured he would look into the matter. 'The Centre pursued the matter but the World Bank was not convinced about giving up the disclaimer condition,' Ahmad said. Releasing the state forest policy 2010, Ahmad said the encroachment of forest lands is a serious issue concerning forest conservation and the problem is getting more serious with every passing day. Asked about encroachment in Gulmarg by locals under the patronage of an MLA, the minister said the inquiry committee he had formed to probe this failed to get to the root of the problem.