In a bid to make villages sustainable, the state government has undertaken the task of making eco-friendly development plans, in tune with the needs of villagers.
Eco-friendly development plans would include laying a sewage network, storm water drains, rainwater harvesting, harnessing renewable energy and conservation and protection of existing assets such as beaches.
Initiated by the rural development department and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the two-year first phase will cover 15 villages comprising 10,000 villagers in Vidarbha, Konkan and Marathwada. These villages would then serve as model villages across the state.
With growing urbanisation, cities and towns are engulfing villages. And as developers plan and build new townships around these villages, the absence of development makes villages vulnerable to land sharks.
“We, therefore, need to protect our villages by having a plan for them since a good number of villages such as those around Sahyadri and coastal areas are ecological assets,” said Amar Supate, MPCB's principal scientific officer, who is overseeing the initiative.
“While western countries have a concept of eco-villages, there is an absence of such an idea in our villages.” These plans will be prepared and implemented by various agencies.
Till date, 64 agencies — government institutions, multinational companies, non-government organisations as well as environment consultancy firms — have expressed their interest. A committee has been formed to scrutinise the applications. Final contracts will be awarded by January.
“An important criteria is that these proposal will have to get the nod of the respective gram sabhas. Apart from preparing model village plans, the agencies will also have to demonstrate technology that can be replicated in respective regions,” said Supate adding that the weather patterns, habits, cultures of individual villages will have to be taken into account while making the plans. For instance, a village prone to floods will have a different eco plan than that of one prone to drought.
'Lot of solid and liquid waste generated'
There are 389 villages in the state with a population of more than 10,000. “There's a lot of solid and liquid waste generated. And a lot of this liquid waste directly flows into the river, polluting it,” said M Kalshetti, deputy secretary, Rural development department. “We are working towards both an environment plan as well as a development plan in terms of land use policy for the villages. We want to adopt an integrated approach.”