Kolkata: The West Bengal government is set to sign an agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for a Rs 400 crore long-term soft loan for the
conservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
"Talks with the international funding agency JICA have taken place and the final agreement for the loan will be signed by the end of this year," Forest Minister Hiten Barman said here.
“The project for conserving biodiversity by creation of national parks, sanctuaries and biosphere reserves, will be completed in eight years from 2012-13," Barman said.
The state has 4064 sq km of protected forests which is 34 percent of the state`s total forest area.
"There are five national parks, 15 sanctuaries, two tiger reserves at the Sundarbans and Buxa, and one biosphere reserve at the Sundarbans," Barman said.
The state`s budgetary allocation for the forest department for the current financial year is Rs 125 crore, but assistance from the Centre was not enough, the minister said.
The Centre, he said, has allocated only Rs 3.5 crore last year and Rs 2.5 crore this year for the development of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, Barman said.
During a recent visit to Delhi, he had held talks with officials of the Wildlife Directorate, who had promised to look into the matter and release more assistance by the end of
the current financial year, he said.
As part of centrally sponsored schemes for management of national parks and sanctuaries, work was in progress at Singhalila, Neora Valley, Gorumara National Parks and Chapramari, Mahananda, Jaldapara, Senchal and Raiganj wildlife sanctuaries, Barman said.
"An awareness programme on wildlife conservation in the forest fringe areas is being taken up to seek cooperation of local people in combating animal depredations," the minister said.
To a question, Barman said that steps have been taken to reduce man-animal conflicts.
The measures included erection of power fencing, tranquilisation of stray wild animals and driving away elephants from human habitations by anti-depredation squads
and local volunteers.
In 2010-11, Rs 8.61 crore was spent while Rs 8.1 crore was proposed during the current year for wildlife conservation. The minister said Rs 3.2 crore was proposed for
improvement and extension of zoos.
`Project Elephant` and development of tiger reserves at the Sundarbans and Buxa with the help of the Centre was progressing, he said.
Some of the programmes taken up under the state plan and centrally sponsored schemes are national afforestation programme, intensification of forest management, RIDF projects financed by NABARD, plantation, forestry treatment, forest research and training and protection and improvement of wildlife.