Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, Ashwani Kumar today said balance has to be kept between the need for development and environment.
Talking to reporters along with committee members after holding discussions on various environmental issues connected to Kerala and particularly to Kochi, Kumar, former Union Law Minister, said "We have to keep a balance between the need for development and environment protection. Environment has to be our foremost concern and this is the point this committee has emphasized. We cannot have meaningful, sustainable and long term development at the cost of environment."
On the the proposed Compensatory Afforestation Bill (CAF bill), he said "it is for afforestation done in lieu of diversion of forest land for non-forest use and Centre would create a compensatory afforestation fund in which all moneys received from companies to whom forest land is diverted would be deposited."
However, the Bill, 2015 has given rise to many apprehensions among environmentalists, he said. The committee critically examined the apprehensions and comments of the NGOs on the CAF bill, he added.
Kumar said the committee members visited Agathi in Lakshadweep for the first time to review the functioning of a de-salination plant. He said the committee has asked the authorities concerned to make sure that portable drinking water is made available to all households in Lakshadweep.
"We are going to pursue this matter and will make recommendations in this regard in the report, he said.
The committee expressed concern over the lack of facility to collect waste littered in the region and said "in order to restore the pristine beauty and glory of the islands, steps should be taken to clear the waste littered in the coastal areas and even in some lagoons."
"This was a very critical necessity, and we discussed about it," he said.
Issues concerning sewage disposal and lack of availability of enough medical facility was also discussed. "We suggested strengthening the elements of health care in the Islands. There is only one specialty Hospital in Lakshadweep with a population of 70,000 people," he pointed out.
On environmental issues of Kerala, Kumar said pollution in
Vembanad lake and in other rivers were a matter of concern and asked the state government to take steps to overcome it.
Concern voiced on Air pollution was also taken up during the discussion, he said. The state environment secretary has been asked to give an action taken report to resolve the various environmental issues within a week, he said.
The committee also discussed many issues of fishermen and problems faced by them against the background of the Coastal Zone Management Act.
To a question on Kerala government response to Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats preservation, he said there was a demand that private lands should be excluded from Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA). "I think that is not a fair view to look at it. If a land is to be protected, it should be protected whether it is private or public," he said.
The committee also wanted the state authority concerned to find a solution to the uncovered waste dump at Kalamassery and Brahmapuram within 12 weeks.