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Wetlands conservation is a prime focus of MP government:Thakkar

Feb 18, 2014

Lokendra Thakkar, Coordinator, Environmental Planning and Coordination Organization, Madhya Pradesh spoke to OneWorld South Asia at the International Conference on Lakes and Wetlands. Excerpts:

OneWorld South Asia (OWSA): How do you think the International Conference on Lakes and Wetlands organised by EPCO will help in better policy making for wetlands?

Lokendra Thakkar: The policy planning should always be consultative and broad based and all the possible stakeholders should be involved. So, we tried our best that political leaders, public representatives in the government and outside the government, people who are working at the grassroots level, policy makers, scientist, academicians and media people get a fair representation at the conference.

From my personal experience of 25 years at the Department of Environment, I can say that Madhya Pradesh has been the leader in raising the level of awareness and consciousness for conservation of natural resources. I have myself seen that the conservation of the lakes and wetlands has been a prime focus of the state government.

Projects have been made and executed not just at the state level but also at the district and gram Panchayat levels for identifying the lakes, shortlisting them, prioritising them, enlisting them in documentation, preparing projects and supporting the local governments.

OWSA: What about funding challenges for conservation of wetlands?

Thakkar:For the Bhoj Wetland of Bhopal,a pristine natural resource, the state government formulated a project in 1995 and negotiated with the Japanese and availed a loan of Rs 240 crore. You don’t see many such examples where the state government joins hands with the central government to save a water body like this wetland.

Bhoj Wetland is a perfect example of the centre and state collaboration. What I want to emphasise,when faced with the problem of paucity of resources, a loan was taken to see that this project, this lake, is conserved.

Otherwise,because of money shortage, the resources would cease to exist. Though, there are still areas of improvement, which are being addressed, the conservation of upper and lower lakes which we call Bhoj wetland has been highlighted with the help of a special presentation.

The Ahmedabad-based Centre for Planning and Technology (CPT) has also been commissioned for a study on these lakes, which speaks a lot about the intentions of the state government, which is providing political and administrative support for the conservation of natural resources.

OWSA: What kind of output are you expecting out of this conference?

Thakkar: There are many aspects of improvement as far as Bhoj wetlandis concerned. The government is committed towards the conservation of pristine natural resources in the city of Bhopal. The sentiments of people of Bhopal are very strongly attached to these lakes and the conference has successfully reaffirmed and highlighted that the lake needs to be conserved.

OWSA: With the presence of international speakers at the conference, what kind of benefits will it bring to the wetlands of Madhya Pradesh?

Thakkar: Professor Masahisa Nakamura, Chairman of the ILEC Scientific Committee, has been associated with the various stages of the Bhoj wetland project implementation from 1995 to 2004 and also the post-evaluation process. Many international bodies have renewed their interest in this wetland. Ramsar Convention too has evinced a lot of interest in it and has sought information regarding a lot of activities.

OWSA: What kind of benefits do you foresee this international conference bringing for the wetlands in MP?

Thakkar: If we are not able to pay adequate attention to our wetlands, global bodies which are supposed to look at these issues will certainly call for some concrete action.I think the conference has been able to revive that kind of attention.

The idea of this conference was to share experiences and what are the other success stories in other parts of the country like Loktak in Manipur and Chilika in Orissa. The basic purpose was to have more exchange of ideas and learning through experience sharing.

OWSA: During the conference representatives of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology made some extreme projections regarding the climate of Madhya Pradesh. How would those projections help the state in better planning?

Thakkar: Those were only projections and I don’t think they are scary.This is a general inference which is being drawn from across the country when you talk about precipitation and climate change.

The projection that the rainy days are going to go down and the number of rainy days will reduce is a very generalised observation. I do not see them as scary.The climate science and climate modeling itself are evolving. So, there may be more corrections and more accuracy. Accurate results will come in times to come. But certainly, these projections highlight the need for conservation of water resources in whatever way possible.

OWSA: What made you choose Bhopal as the venue for the conference?

Thakkar: The city of Bhopal is a city of lakes and one of the frontrunners in the state to raise the voice for conservation of lakes.I don’t see any other appropriate place other than Bhopal for a discourse on wetlands.

Of course, there have been success stories from Tikamgarh and Indore too,but Bhopal being the capital city with the biggest lake in the state is the most appropriate place for such a conference.

OWSA: What kind of role can EPCO play in the conservation of wetlands?

Thakkar: EPCO is serving the role of a catalyst. We don’t have any stakes because we are neither consumers nor conservers.

We are into devising policies, supporting state governments and advising them on a variety of environmental issues and also preparing projects and talking to different local governments to see that they are able to execute these projects. So, our role is basically that of facilitation. Transcription: Ruby Rani

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