After remaining confined to the boundaries of the cities, towns and villages for two years since it was launched in October 2014, Swacch Bharat Mission is all set to make entry into the national parks and sanctuaries.
The union ministry of environment, forest and climate change has recently sent an advisory to the chief wildlife wardens and forest secretaries of all states urging them to take steps in and around the national parks and sanctuaries so that the forests could be kept clean of garbage.
The Swachh Bharat Mission – a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is one of the largest programs on sanitation launched by the union government to make the country clean by 2019.
Experts said some of the measures that need to be initiated in and around the forest areas include banning of plastic and polythene in the protected areas. The tourists would be provided with glass bottles and carry bags made out of canvas by the forest department against a refundable security deposit.
Other measures such as segregating wastes into biodegradable and non-biodegradable components before they are disposed off in an eco-friendly manner, using renewable energy for lights and introducing battery operated vehicles to carry tourists would also have to be initiated, experts said.
“The ministry’s guidelines are yet to reach us. Once we get them, we would integrate them into the management plan of the protected areas and their budget. It could later be incorporated in the Annual Plan of Operation while submitting proposals to the ministry for funding under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats scheme,” said a senior officer of the state forest department.
Sources in the state forest department, however, pointed out that some of the measures mentioned in the advisory have already been adopted in the all the national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves and elephant reserves, including Sunderbans, Jaldapara, Gorumara and Buxa.
“The forests and protected areas in Bengal have long been declared plastic free zones and solar lamps are used in almost all the islands of the Sunderbans, including the government tourist lodge at Sajnekhali inside the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve,” said the official.
A local advisory committee would have to be constituted which would include all stake holders to review and monitor all tourist facilities, noise pollution norms and environmental safeguards within a radius of 5 km of the protected areas.
The boats carrying tourists to the Sunderban Tiger Reserve are, however, still using kanta tel (adulterated fuel) which causes heavy pollution in the rivers that crisscross the delta. Not only do tigers often cross these rivers frequently but these rivers and creeks are home to a variety of wildlife including crocodiles and sharks.
Recently these boats operating with adulterated fuel have come under the scanner of the National Green Tribunal after environment activist filed a PIL. The advisory have asked state forest departments to take steps so that the rivers and water holes used by wild animals are not contaminated.
Every four months, the states would need to submit progress reports along with photographs on actions taken to implement the measures.