A gene bank for the conservation of genetic biodiversity in the state will also be set up, said the state budget presented by Finance Minister Ajit Pawar. The project will be funded to the tune of Rs 286 crore over the next 5 years.
“I am happy to report that according to the Indian Forest Survey Report 2020-21, there is an increase of about 20 km² in the forest area. The forest cover has also increased by 1302 km². It has been decided to start Tiger Safari in a 171 hectare forest area adjacent to Chandrapur.Additionally, a wildlife rescue center will be set up to facilitate immediate treatment of wild animals in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts.To conserve biodiversity genetics in the state, Maharashtra Gene Bank Project is also being implemented with an expenditure of Rs 286 crore over the next 5 years,” Finance Minister Ajit Pawar said in his budget speech.
To commemorate the great contribution to the work of the eminent economist Padma Vibhushan Dr. CD Deshmukh, a biodiversity forest and botanical garden will be established in Jamgaon, Roha district of Raigad.
Allocating a budget for wildlife conservation and awareness is a welcome initiative. However, some key areas were overlooked and it would have been more appropriate to allocate a budget to restoring grasslands and wetlands, covering open pits across the state to limit wildlife mishaps, creating good infrastructure to prevent and extinguish forest fires, creating rapid response human-wildlife conflict mitigation units in conflict hotspots and support for community-based responsible tourism initiatives around lesser known wilderness areas. Rs 100 crores for African Safari could have been reallocated to address some of the most pressing issues and challenges in wildlife conservation.
Kedar Gore, director of the Corbett Foundation (TCF)
“The solar-powered fence system will be implemented in all the sensitive villages in the state to prevent crop loss from wild animals. The government intends to conduct the country’s first experiment to display the wildlife of the African continent.For this, an African safari is offered at Balasaheb Thackeray Gorewada International Zoo.It is estimated at Rs 100 crores.A leopard safari is offered in a forest area of 90 hectares in the forest department of Pune.It is expected to cost Rs 60 crore For the year 2022-23, an expenditure of Rs 347 crore has been proposed for the Revenue Department and Rs 1,995 crore for the Forestry Department for programmed expenditure,” Pawar said.
For the first time, the state has allocated a large sum of Rs 3,200 crore to Konkan to deal with calamities like cyclones and floods. “The state government has approved a disaster mitigation program of Rs 3,200 crore for three years to deal with cyclones and other calamities in the Konkan region. Erosion control dams, lines underground electricity, multi-purpose cyclone shelters, early warning systems, and preventive measures in sensitive locations will be implemented under this project,” the budget states.
Having a school curriculum on environment and climate change to build awareness is a positive step, but it would have been better to provide a stipend to all schools and government institutions interested in rooftop solar, making it mandatory .
Bhagwan Kesbhat, Founder, Waatavaran Foundation
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has also been allocated a budget of ₹253 crore for the financial year 2022-23. Citing that the state climate change adaptation and mitigation program of “Majhi Vasundhara Abhiyan” receives huge support from 11,968 local bodies in the state, Pawar said the state will fund a sum of 100 ₹ crore for FY 2022-23. Under the same program, a school curriculum on environment and climate change will also be prepared for students in grades I to VIII to raise awareness in the class about environment and climate change.
With a budget of Rs 150 crore, the state has also proposed to conserve 23 rivers through river rejuvenation and restoration. This is mainly to prevent impurities from flowing into rivers and to ensure the disposal of waste before it soils the soil, catchments and water. It should be recalled that to combat excessive rains and floods, the state government provided Rs 5,544.10 crore to farmers for crop damage from June 2021 to October 2021. Impacts of Cyclone Tauktae, Extreme rains, flood damage in Raigad, Ratnagiri and the remaining parts of Maharashtra has been compensated with Rs 6,079.48 crore.
The intention to retain 23 rivers and provision in the budget for the same is a welcome step. However, we hope that the rejuvenation and restoration of the river will be done on the basis of ecological principles and considering the rivers as living bodies, and not on the riverfront development model of the Sabarmati River which converts the rivers in dead tanks and concrete channels.
Shripad Dharmadhikary, Coordinator, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra