//Tribals to be involved in conservation of forests

Tribals to be involved in conservation of forests

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Minister for Environment and Forests A. Sujanapal announced here on Thursday that the Government was considering a proposal to involve all forest dwelling tribal people in the protection of forests.

Addressing a `Meet-the-Press programme,’ organised by the Kesari Journalists Trust here a day after he assumed office, the Minister said he was discussing a scheme for this with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Department. A ministerial-level discussion would be held on Monday. Mr. Sujanapal said the scheme would ensure livelihood for about 80,000 tribal people and mitigate poverty. The Scheduled Tribes Department had the required funds for the scheme.

 Currently, only a small number of tribal people were employed for forest protection. Replying to questions, the Minister promised to examine the advisability of planting trees in forest areas. There was no set-up in the Forest Department to assess the environmental impact of various schemes and other developments. He said a cell would be set up for the purpose. The impact of large-scale use of pesticides on the environment too would be studied. The Government proposed to evolve a policy and plan for protection of the environment, he said. On the controversial issue of renewal of leases and assignment of cardamom lands, the Minister said the Government would abide by the directives of the courts. Discussions were under way on controversial issues.

He said stringent action would be taken against public prosecutors who sided with petitioners in Forest cases. Asked about threats faced by his predecessor, Mr. Sujanapal said he could face such threats as a public man if there was people’s support. In fact, forests can be protected effectively only with public participation. There were circumstances that prevented the enforcement of various laws. So, more awareness should be created about environment and forests. He said the quality of water in the Chaliyar River had improved following the closure of the Grasim Industries. The flora around it had regenerated, though the State had lost a factory.

Soon after news spread about the decision to induct him into the Oommen Chandy ministry, Mr. Sujanapal had told journalists and friends that on top of his agenda would be strengthening of measures for protecting and conserving the forests. Environmental problems concerning Kozhikode city has been high on his lists of priorities. His most recent initiative concerned the threats to the large Kottuli wetland system in the heart of Kozhikode city.

Hindu, Friday, Jan 06, 2006