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Jobs tangled in dense forests

New Delhi, Sept. 29: The Centre’s mega schemes to spruce up rural infrastructure have come up against an insurmountable obstacle 'dense forest cover and forest land where minimum or no development work is allowed.

In a meeting of rural development ministers from all states on Tuesday, ministers from five states with dense forest cover posed a vital question: how would they justify getting environmental clearance for projects on mega scales'

The ministers were from Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The meeting was called by the rural development ministry to initiate a dialogue with states on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the ministers that states must generate the resources they expend. He said the projects that would guarantee jobs for the rural poor should be directed towards creation of productive assets.

The Centre plans to generate employment by initiating projects aimed at water harvesting, land resource management etc.

Responding to the Centre’s suggestions, the ministers from the five states said getting environmental clearance for even minor projects was a tough job.

“There are large tracts of forest land. They have been demarcated as reserve forest or are parts of national parks, sanctuaries or tiger reserves. How will we start mega projects here'” asked a minister.

Several important tiger reserves and national parks ' Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Jim Corbett, Palamau, Rajaji National Park to name a few ' are located in these states. “It is not very easy to start big projects here,” said another minister.

Rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said the states had raised a “very logical” question.

Ministry officials said the answer might lie in evolving a synthesis between development and environment protection.

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