The cold desert region of Ladakh in northern Jammu and Kashmir is all set for a ecological transformation with the World Bank having committed Rs 2.6 billion ($55 million) for the development of remote Kargil and Leh districts in the region.
"The World Bank has prepared the Participatory Watershed Management Project and under this scheme Rs 2.6 million will be granted for the environmental development of the region," state Forest Minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal said.
Special attention will be paid to the agriculture, forestry, and rural development sectors. "The idea is to improve the lot of the people in the region, which experiences harsh weather conditions. The World Bank mission can really transform or at least set into motion a process of transformation in the region," said Afzal.
The Ladakh region, which has borders with Pakistan-administered Kashmir and China, is known for its harsh weather conditions with temperatures dipping to minus 40 degrees Celsius. Drass, the second coldest place in the world after Siberia, is part of Kargil district of the region.
The extreme weather conditions are a bane for the people, because the vegetation is bare minimum.
The World Bank has instituted several schemes to improve the ecology of Jammu and Kashmir, with the participatory project in Ladakh being the latest.
Ladakh is also known for being home to the highest battleground - the Siachen glacier situated at a height of 18,000 feet above sea level.
Daniel Semell, team leader of the World Bank team, was in Leh last week to prepare for the project.
The forest minister added that the government would step up efforts to improve Ladakh's flora and fauna and arrest desertification for maintaining the ecological balance.