SA, Kenyan agencies to maintain forests

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Nagpur, Mar 5: The Maharashtra Government may involve government agencies from South Africa and Kenya for maintenance of forests and operation of jungle safaris in the state, Minister for Forests Babanrao Pachpute has said.

Speaking to reporters here yesterday, Mr Pachpute said the agencies would create water bodies and grasslands within the forests, and arrange prey for carnivorous animals by releasing them into feeding areas. The agencies would be allowed to construct star-rated resorts outside the forest areas and arrange vehicles for tourists to visit the jungle, all without violating the rules, he said.

The scheme would be implemented subject to approval by the Central government, Mr Pachpute said.The Indian Government had already signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the governments of South Africa and Kenya in this regard, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Pachpute informed that the state government's Eco-Tourism policy was ready and would be tabled during the forthcoming budget session of the legislature. Under the policy, it is envisaged that about 40 major spots and 150 minor spots of tourist attraction, including places of religious significance, would be identified and facilities developed there.

An Eco-Tourism Board with the Forest Minister as its chairman and consisting of experts, would be formed and all the files would come directly to the department, he said.

Mr Pachpute said the state's bamboo policy would also be announced in the budget session. The Centre would release a grant of Rs 12 crore to Maharashtra under the National Bamboo Mission, he said, adding the grant would be given for the next five years, although the amount may vary. The grant was for saplings, plantations, conservation, research, processing and marketing, he added.


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