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The Kerala Planning Board, for the first time, has taken up 'environment' as a specific subject for formulating plan proposals to get a "reliable status picture of the state's environment". The board has set up a Working Group on Environment (wge) "to rediscover the natural environmental design of the state and to agree upon its potentials and limitations".
wge recently submitted a report to the Fisheries, Environment and Ecosystem Committee of the planning board recommending 26 projects, with an outlay of Rs 56.05 crore, to be implemented during the 11th Plan period. It has listed a series of recommendations to bring about order in the existing system. "Under the present circumstances, Kerala is headed towards an ecological disaster," says the report.
wge has listed 14 agencies like the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (kspcb) and Land Use Board and recommended overhauling of some of these, as well as the formation of a cabinet committee on environment under the chairmanship of the chief minister. "The (existing) law contemplates constitution of a state pollution control board with a chairman having special knowledge and practical experience with respect to environmental protection or a person having knowledge and experience in administering institutions dealing with the matters aforesaid," says the report. It says that the present chairman does not qualify for the post.
A state-level environmental monitoring committee consisting of non-officials and officials with powers to conduct surprise inspections and examine documents on receiving complaints, has also been recommended. It wants the environment department to be given powers on par with the finance department on matters of governance.
Formulation of a land-use policy has also been recommended. The policy must have, as one of its objectives, identifying, classifying and zoning of areas for designated use--agricultural land, wetland, forestry, grass land, industrial zones and catchment areas--based on watershed, land capabilities, current use and environmental considerations.
It has recommended that the principle of 'polluter pays' should be put into practice for restoration of environmentally degraded areas due to the implementation of specific development projects. Endosulfan poisoning in Kasaragod, pollution of the Kadamakudy area in Kochi due to industrial effluents from the Eloor-Edayar area, groundwater exploitation and pollution in Plachimada are some of the areas that will be brought under scrutiny. Looking ahead, the report has sought ecological and social impact assessment for proposed developmental projects in the state.
Developing a 'zero-waste management system' for local bodies and implementing models in panchayats and municipalities, besides seed-fund support, is another recommendation. According to the report, the state should avoid centralised systems like disposal yards, incinerators, landfills and composting plants. Assessment of e-waste generation, formulation of a policy and enactment of law are also proposed.
On implementation and project outlay, C R Neelakantan, the vice-chairperson of wge, says, "We expect the Planning Board to employ their experts to study projects and work out the details. It is important that the spirit of recommendations are accepted because wge has gone for practical measures with people's participation, rather than just theoretical planning."
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