Grand plan for green look to Telangana

Grand plan for green look to Telangana

Forests and Environment Minister Jogu Ramanna who represents Adilabad Assembly Constituency says he has a major task ahead of him and that is to make...

Forests and Environment Minister Jogu Ramanna who represents Adilabad Assembly Constituency says he has a major task ahead of him and that is to make one of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s major dream projects – Haritha Haram – a reality. Rao has set a target of three years to achieve planting of 230 crore saplings across the State on a mission mode.

The government aims at increasing tree cover from the current 25.16 per cent to 33 per cent of the land area in the State. This project can become a reality only if the Minister and the 13-member steering committee work hand in hand, by involving all government departments, local bodies, corporations and all the stakeholders in the society.

He says saplings will be planted as part of a massive afforestation programme in open spaces at government offices and educational institutions by roping in all sections of the society in the month of July. Already, district-level coordination committees have been set up and duties chalked out. Ramanna was a Telugu Desam Party leader until he joined Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in October 2011.

He started his political career as the Sarpanch of Deepaiguda village. He was later elected as an MPTC and a ZPTC in his native district of Adilabad. In an exclusive interview to Ananda Kumar Reddy, Ramanna exudes confidence that he would be able to fulfil the responsibility that has been thrust on him.

Has your government carried out any study on the exact forest cover after the bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh? What measures are being taken by your department to stop the dwindling forest cover?

The Departments of Revenue and Forest have conducted a joint survey of the forests. But the boundaries of forest areas have not yet been demarcated. The Revenue Department usually maintains a record book on forests. To ensure protection of forest land, both the departments will get the forest land registered at respective Land Registrar offices. This will ensure that the forest land is not encroached upon by private persons.

Your government led by K Chandrashekar Rao has taken up the ‘Haritha Haram’ as one of the flagship programmes. You recently announced ‘Haritha Haram’ celebrations in the month of July. What is it that you want to celebrate? What has your government achieved in that direction to celebrate?

You know very well that the Chief Minister has announced planting of 230 crore green plants across the state on a mission mode, within the next three years. The ‘Haritha Haram Vaarotsvaalu’ slated for the month of July will involve planting of saplings by government employees across all the ten Telangana districts without any exception, including local bodies and corporations. The larger goal is to raise the green cover in the State to one-third of its geographical area.

The government has also constituted a 13-member State-Level Steering Committee headed by Chief Secretary to review the progress. As per the National Forest Policy, a minimum of 33% of the total geographical area under forest/tree cover should be maintained for environmental stability and ecological balance which are vital for sustenance of all life-forms, human, animal and plants.

In what way the ‘Haritha Haram’ will help in increasing the forest cover in the state? What is the plan for planting the seedlings in different locations?

We have identified 34 types of locations for planting. They include public educational institutions, office premises of Marketing and Irrigation Departments. Actually, individual targets have been fixed for plantations in various types of locations. The prime target is to plant 100 crore seedlings in degraded forest lands and locations where forests have been destroyed. In non-forest areas, namely in locations owned by Marketing and Irrigation departments, 110 crore saplings will be planted. And 20 crore saplings will be planted in GHMC areas.

Planting of seedlings can be one primary task in raising greenery in forest and non-forest areas. What measures are in place to control smuggling of precious forest wood?

We have plans to recruit staff wherever there are vacancies. Smuggling has been controlled but we do face the problem of shortage in staff. This leads to deficiency in patrolling. We have now decided to provide police protection to the staff. Not less than 20 police constables will be posted in each division. We even propose to convert some of the bailable offences into non-bailable offences. Further, forest officials can detain offenders who repeat the crime up to one year, by invoking the Preventive Detention (PD) Act.

You also hold the portfolio of Backward Classes welfare. First thing that comes to one’s mind is hostels. It is common knowledge that social welfare hostels are in a pathetic condition. What measures are you going to take to improve the conditions?

In my recent review with the Executive Directors of District BC Corporations, I have directed them to fill all the vacancies in the Corporation. The process of identifying 41,998 beneficiaries under the BC Corporation scheme for 2014-15 financial year is reaching completion. BC Corporation has allocated Rs 230.70 crore for this purpose. Of this amount, Rs 115.35 crore will be sanctioned as margin money under the 50 per cent subsidy.

How much allocation is your department expecting in the next budget? What will be your priorities?

The Telangana government is committed to the development of Backward Classes, who constitute more than 50 per cent of the state’s population. We are preparing a plan of action for 2015-16 to give skill development training to backward classes to ensure their all-round development. For this, apart from state-sponsored schemes, steps have been taken to ensure effective implementation of the Centrally-Sponsored schemes. Further, we have already taken several initiatives to strengthen BC Corporation and Federation, through which we are taking several schemes for BCs’ welfare.

Chief Minister KCR has claimed that he would wage a war on pollution and said would make Hyderabad as a city without traffic snarls. What steps are in place and what new initiatives do you propose to take in this direction?

A sample survey on water and air pollution has already been ordered. I have asked the Pollution Control Board (PCB) officials to encourage the use of CNG (compressed natural gas) for vehicles in order to curb air pollution. Steps need to be taken to ensure adoption of CNG by autos and RTC buses. I have called for increased patrolling on vehicles that transport pollutants. Surveillance on all industrial units spread across the ten districts of Telangana will be further strengthened. Night-time patrolling will be made more vigorous and raids by Task force will be made more frequent. As a part of green belt programme, we will encourage new industrial units to plant trees in their premises.

In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, you have been given one more portfolio of Science and Technology. Do you have any specific plans to increase scientific research-related infrastructure in the new state?

Yes. I have not yet familiarised myself with the new portfolio. But the government has already come up with plans to build a Science City Building in Warangal at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore. We have a similar plan for the districts of Adilabad and Nizamabad. A Science and Technology Park will be established for the benefit of these two districts. A state-wide plan is still being worked out. Soon I will focus attention on this department.

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