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Wildlife advisory committee to be reconstituted: Forest minister

Thiruvananthapuram: Forest minister K Raju has said that the department would reconstitute the ‘currently non-functional’ state wildlife advisory committee with environmentalists and experts to chalk out effective government strategies and make policy decisions.

“It’s been quite some time since the advisory committee has convened its last meeting. There should be a competent advisory committee in place for the government to seek advice while formulating the state’s policies on wildlife protection,” he said at the ‘Minister on a Mission’ programme organized by The Times of India.

Replying to a panel of experts in the programme, the minister said top priority would be given to afforestation through various programmes of the department’s social forestry wing. It would be ensured that there is wide participation by voluntary organizations.

“Any wrong choice of species for planting would be rectified and necessary mechanism will be put in place to see that these saplings do not perish but grow into full-blown trees,” he added.

Afforestation on riverbanks is important to protect the rivers in the state, ‘which gets depleted or contaminated once they flow out of the pristine forests due to human footprint’, he pointed out.

The minister stressed the need to give total protection to wildlife and their habitats. He said that the plan was to strengthen the field-level activities by equipping forest watchers and beat officers with the most advanced gadgets and by erecting adequate camps in the deep forest.

“We have already asked for a central government fund for improving the facilities. A meeting in this regard is scheduled in New Delhi next month,” he said.

Raju, who also holds the dairy development, animal husbandry and zoo portfolios, reiterated his immediate target of making the state self-sufficient in milk production within two years. The government, he said, would chalk out new schemes to turn dairy farming and cattle breeding into profitable enterprises.

“The dairy farming is in a big crisis and the farmers are not getting the returns they deserve. There will be an effective government intervention soon to revive the sector with steps like introducing insurance for cattle with contributions from the government, local bodies and cooperative milk societies.”

On his plans for the two zoos in the state, the minister said the works to shift the one in Thrissur (currently on a 13.5 acre land in the city) to 336 acres of forest land in Puthur will begin this year itself. “The Thiruvananthapuram zoo, on the other hand, is huge and perhaps one of the best in south India. Now, there’s no scope for an expansion in area, but we can bring in new animals. The immediate plan is to add eight more animals (fresh species), which would be brought from other parts of the country,”he said.

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