Himachal government seeks defense budget pie for raising Eco-battalions

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Shimla: Supporting a trained and disciplined work force in the over 1 lakh ex-servicemen in the state, the Himachal government intends to raise two eco-battalions for which the ministry of defense would be approached for funding, top government functionaries stated here.

Minister Dhani Ram Shandil

Laying out the roadmap for raising these battalions, Dhani Ram Shandil, minister Sainik Welfare said, “environment is a sensitive issue in this Himalayan state and we also have a pool of unemployed people who are both disciplined and trained.”

“As the state is short on funds, we intend to approach the defense ministry for supporting 2 eco-regiments that would not only provide gainful employment to about 5000 ex-servicemen but this manpower could be put to use for safeguarding the environment and other tasks,” said the minister.

Experimenting with deploying ex-servicemen for increasing the states green cover were attempted in 2010, when a Eco Task Force was constituted for carrying out a plantation drive in Satluj River basin.

Damming of the river at Bhakra and the upcoming Kol Dam, and several run of the river projects which include Nathpa Jhakri, Karcham-Wangtoo, the upcoming Rampur project and the planned Luhri project has the entire catchment area battered, with the entire river flowing through tunnels, leaving behind an empty valley landscape for many kilometers at a stretch.

Picture courtesy: Centre for Sustainable Development

The eco-battalion was instrumental for launching a plantation drive in 2010 and about 1 lakh saplings supplied by the forest department had been planted over 200 hectares of grasslands around Tattapani.

The government had drawn up plans of basing one eco-battalion in Ravi, Beas and Satluj river basin for increasing green cover, protecting flora and fauna and checking soil erosion.

Shandil says, “besides protecting and increasing the green cover, people trained in the armed forces could also be used for disaster management operations and would be of immense help to both the military and civil administration.

The defense ministry would be approached after a detailed project proposal about area of operation and the funding needed to support these regiments is prepared, said the minister.

Editor-Reporter with Hill Post, Ravinder Makhaik as a journalist has for over two decades worked for India’s leading newspapers and television networks.

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