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Local environmentalists protest the move to reduce eco-sensitive zone around the Taj Mahal

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Agra: Local environmentalists on Wednesday again voiced their opposition to the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to reduce the eco-sensitive zone limit around Sur Sarovar or Keetham Lake from ten km to just 250 metres.

In an unanimous resolution passed at a conference held at Youth Hostel Hall in the city, the green brigade warned of dangerous consequences of what it called a “suicidal step”.

“The eco-sensitive zone acts as a buffer for the Taj Mahal against toxic gases released by Mathura Refinery. The green belt has halted the march of desert towards Agra. The dense forest also filters dust-laden westerlies going towards Taj Trapezium Zone,” the resolution contended.

The green activists have been holding meetings and staging dharnas for the past 10 days ever since Divisional Commissioner, Pradip Bhatnagar, asked District Magistrate, Pankaj Kumar, to forward to the state government a proposal to reduce the forest area on the Agra-Delhi national highway.

“The issue has been examined. Keetham lies in the TTZ area where polluting units are already banned. There is no need for (imposing) unnecessary limits which may further enhance the arbitrariness of forest authorities,” Bhatnagar told a media outlet.

The Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) comprises of the 10,400 sq km area around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution. Over 40 protected monuments – including World Heritage Sites of the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri – come under the zone. It has been named so since it is located around the Taj Mahal and is shaped like a trapezoid.

Union Environment and Forests Minister, Prakash Javedkar, last week assured a delegation of Eco-activists that the state government’s proposal would be studied by a panel of experts and only then, a final decision will be taken, Sur Sarovar Van Kshetra Bachao Samiti president, Goswami Murari Lal Sharma, said.

The minister agreed to review the circumstances under which the limits of the famous Sur Sarovar bird sanctuary and Ramsar wetland at Keetham was sought to be reduced to 250 metres, said Devashish Bhattacharya, a member of the delegation.

While those who have purchased land for industries or multi-storeyed apartments in the area are happy, the greens are incensed over the “unwise” decision of the district authorities.(IANS)

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Madhya Pradesh Waives off $5.3Bn in Farm Debt

The western state of Maharashtra and northern state of Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by the BJP, announced similar loan waivers last year.

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India, farmers, farm
Farmers march towards the parliament house during a rally to protest soaring farm operating costs and plunging prices of their produce, in New Delhi, India. VOA

The new leader of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is to waive up to $5.3 billion of farm loans, becoming the latest area to offer relief ahead of a national election next year as farmers reel from losses caused by falling crop prices.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party lost the central state to Congress last week dealing Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014 and boosting the opposition ahead of the vote next year.

Congress leader Kamal Nath, who became chief minister of the state on Monday, decided to write off farmers’ loans up to 200,000 rupees, according to a notification.

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Police try to stop farmers during a protest demanding a better price for their produce on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. VOA

Protests on the rise

Farmers’ protests have been rising in past months due to the fall in crop prices and a rise in the cost of diesel and fertilizer.

Nearly 3.4 million farmers will benefit from the loan waiver, which is likely to cost between 350 billion rupees ($4.9 billion) to 380 billion rupees ($5.3 billion), Rajesh Rajora, the state’s principal secretary for agriculture, told Reuters.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal Accuses Modi Government of Betraying Farmers

The western state of Maharashtra and northern state of Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by the BJP, announced similar loan waivers last year. (VOA)