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Rural ministry wants greener programmes

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Each of our schemes must incorporate ecological objectives, says Jairam; report, co-authored with UNDP, looks at what needs to be done

To make important rural development programmes more environment-friendly, the ministry of rural development, along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on Friday released a report defining ‘green’ outcomes for major government schemes and outlined strategies for inclusive and sustainable development.

Titled ‘Greening rural development in India’, it looks at improving the quality of ecosystems, enabling sustainable livelihoods, strengthening the resilience of local communities to enable them to recover from extreme weather events and reducing ecological footprint through efficient use of energy, material and natural resources.

The report has examined six flagship schemes. These are the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS), National Rural Livelihoods Mission, Integrated Watershed Development Programme, Indira Awaas Yojana, National Rural Drinking Water Programme and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. It recommended the ministry identify a set of green outcomes and prepare green guidelines, including a set of non-negotiation principles.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said, “With an annual budget of around Rs75,000 crore, the ministry’s schemes have immense potential to contribute to the goal of sustainable poverty reduction and efficient use of natural resources. Each scheme needs to incorporate a set of green objectives in its implementation and make delivery of green results a part of policy and guidelines.”

The report also suggested creation of a support organisation to facilitate implementation of green guidelines. It recommended an annual Green Report by the ministry, to summarise major green achievements and outcomes.

On MGNREGS, wanted a perspective plan for every gram panchayat on the basis of landscape, watershed and aquifer.

It called for strengthening capacities of the panchayats to develop green proposals and monitor green results, block-vevel capabilities to support implementing agencies and a green index as part of the scheme monitoring, to track green impacts at the panchayat level. It said panchayats could be paid incentives to achieve or surpass the index

In the NRLM, the UNDP called for payment of labour subsidies to self-help groups that engaged in green and sustainable methods for harvesting a produce. It also asked for setting aside two per cent of the expenses in the scheme for developing niche markets for sustainably harvested produce and green input supply chains. It has suggested similar green standards for the rural housing scheme and the rural sanitation scheme.

The report was released jointly by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Ramesh, and Jayanthi Natarajan, minister for environment and forests.

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