Himachal Pradesh is the first Indian state to get carbon credit for reducing pollution. I met HP chief minister Pramkumar Dhumal when he was in Mumbai for the BJP national conclave on good governance. I wanted to know what steps his government took to preserve the environment. I got an interesting interview. I filed it for may newspaper on the occasion of World Environment Day. But it was not published. I am giving it here, on my personal place, for your information.
“A lecture on global warming was an alarming bell for preserving environment”
Premkumar Dhumal is the only chief minister in the country who holds a portfolio of agriculture and animal husbandry. Under his leadership Himachal Pradesh has become the first Indian state which has obtained carbon credit for preserving environment. Dhumal, who joined politics after quiting his job as a English teacher, spoke over the measures his government took to make HP almost free from pollution.
Q. What steps have you taken for preserving environment?
A. We promoted use of polythene bags mixing with cement in building roads all over the state. Our Public Works Department purchase the polythene bags from people at a rate of Rs4 per kg and give it to the cement industries. The result is that you will not find polythene bags lying on the streets in HP. Also, the quality of roads built using polythene bags is better than the tar and bitumen roads.
Q. What made you take these steps?
A. Once I heard a lecture on global warming. The speaker talked about rising sea water level and warned that some port cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata will have to face the flooding in near future. He then added that the states in Himalayan ranges will also have to face the flood like situation due to melting of ice. It was an alarm bell for us and we decided to curb the pollution first.
Q. Did you run any awareness campaign regarding preserving environment?
A. We ran a campaign called Community Led Awareness, Assessment, Advocacy and Action Program. Under this program we pledged all school children not to waste water. The children were asked to argue their parents to cut down the wastage of water. The campaign was successful.
Q. What about tree cuttings?
A. We have adopted a policy which states that the residents of forest areas have the first right over the forest wealth. We share the forest's wealth with the residents. Whatever is the income from the forest products, right from tree to their leaves, is shared among the residents, local governing body and the state government. The residents get 70 percent of the income, the local governing body 20 percent and the remaining 10 percent goes to the state government. After adopting the policy the residents of forest areas felt that the forest was their property and they spontaneously started taking care of the forest.
Q. How you preserved greenery?
A. HP's 90.2 percent population stay in villages. We give 80 percent subsidy for installing poly houses and drip irrigation. We also give 90 percent subsidy for using bamboo instead of steal or iron. We have encouraged the rural youth for opting horticulture and flouriculture instead of running behind government jobs. It has given us the positive results.
Q. Has the measures affected the state's economy?
A. Not at all. In fact, our economy is growing after that. We have founded India's first Information Technology as well as Bio-technology university. We have entered into an agreement with Yoga guru Ramdev for the selling of Aloe Vera and Amla, which is produced in the state on a large scale. Ramdev purchases these items from us in lieu of a handsome amount.
Q. Being a tourism destination how you manage the filth the tourists bring in?
A. Around 1.46 crore tourists visited HP last year. We have launched a concept of rural tourism. Under this concept we do not impose tax on the tourist if they prefer to stay in a village. We provide them secured tents in the forest and give a feeling a forest life. Also, we provide cheapest training in water sports. Interestingly, not only the human beings the tourist birds have also been attracted to HP on a large scale in comparison to other states.