Himachal Pradesh Governor Bandaru Dattatraya on Saturday urged Union Environment, Forests and Climate Change minister Prakash Kavadekar to grant one time exemption for Jal Jeevan Mission under Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and 2006 for its implementation.

In a letter to Prakash Javadekar, Dattatreya asked the Union Minister to personally look into the matter and issue necessary directions.

“There would be no felling of trees nor any damage would be caused to the ecology of the area and most components of the project such as pipes and trenches were either underground or did not damage the trees,” he added.

Dattatraya has brought to the notice of the Union Minister that the state was facing a peculiar problem in implementing the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) as most ridgelines were forest lands and no non-forestry activity was allowed in the forest area.

“Since all the activities related to construction of gravity based water supply schemes such as water storage and conservation structure, laying of main pipe lines and distribution network are classified as non-forestry activities, the state is finding it difficult to construct gravity based schemes.

As a result, almost all the schemes under Jal Jeevan Mission are lift water supply schemes,” he said.

The Governor said instead of holding the water along the ridges, it was first allowed to drain to the valley and then lifted up with electric power to be supplied to the villages.

This adds to the cost and creates other problems as well, expressing his concern, he added.

He further stated that in order to make good gravity based schemes all the activities under JJM need to be exempted from Forest Conservation Act and this could also be done by providing one time exemption under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Further, it was estimated that the state would save an amount of Rs 700 to 750 crore approximately, annually that could be spent on construction and maintenance of these schemes.

“Himachal Pradesh has a very successful afforestation programme which was evident from the fact that the forest cover in the state has increased by 33.52 square kilometres between 2017 and 2019.

The recorded forest area of the state has 62.32 per cent of total geographical area and not only this, the State has declared all non-private land as forest land in line with the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980,” said.

The Governor said that the request assumes more significance in the present scenario as COVID-19 has suppressed economic activity throughout the world and India was no exception.

“A large number of people have returned to their native villages and are looking to invest in agriculture and allied sectors and assured irrigation would inspire a lot of confidence amongst these people.

The Government of India has, in this pandemic situation, taken many steps to rejuvenate the economic system,” he added while urging to consider their genuine demand for the development of the state.