More German aid to empower Tripura tribals

Agartala, Aug 20 (IANS) Germany, which has provided a whopping Rs.1.4 billion in financial assistance to Tripura for empowering the tribals and people living in remote areas by utilising natural resources, may provide more aid to the northeastern state, an official said here Tuesday.

An Indian delegation led by Tripura Forest Minister Jitendra Choudhury would go on a two-week visit to Germany from Aug 22 to study the successful livelihood based on forests in that country, a Tripura forest department official told reporters.

After the visit by the Indian delegation, more financial assistance is expected to be sanctioned as Germany is immensely satisfied over the implementation of the project in Tripura, the official said.

KfW, a German government-owned development bank based in Frankfurt, has been providing financial assistance to various Indian-German forest-based projects in India.

"A joint delegation from KfW and the German government had visited India in December last year for an on-the-spot study of the KfW-aided projects in various parts of the country," the official said.

The German delegation in their study report said the Tripura project was the best implemented project in India.

The Indian delegation that is visiting Germany also includes Arvind Mayaram, secretary of the department of economic affairs under the union ministry of finance, a joint secretary from the union ministry of development of north eastern region (DoNER), Tripura's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests A.K. Gupta and some other Tripura officials.

"Under the Indo-German development project, the KfW has been providing 15 million euros (Rs.1.4 billion) as grant to implement the six-year-long (2009-2015) project," the official added.

Over 50,000 families, mostly tribals and rural poor, would benefit under the project, to be implemented in 104 villages under Dhalai and north Tripura districts, he said.

Germany is also providing technical assistance to utilise natural resources for sustainable development to make the people self-reliant.

According to Tripura forest officials, the project is the first of its kind in India and is aimed at socio-economic development of tribals and other backward people and the protection of natural resources.

The German-aided scheme, which would cover 343,100 hectares of forest land, would also reduce the activities of "Jhum" cultivation (slash and burn shifting cultivation) and increase bio-diversity.

Meanwhile, Japan is also funding a major ecological conservation project in Tripura, with a soft loan of Rs.3.07 billion. It will be financed by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) at simple interest.

The JBIC has agreed to provide financial assistance for the eight-year-long project, aimed at upgrading the degraded forest land, caused by shifting cultivation, into an ecologically and commercially productive forest.

It would also help in improving the quality of life of locals, especially in tribal areas.

Tribals in the hilly terrain of Tripura and other northeastern states have for generations been carrying out the traditional slash-and-burn method of cultivation, which has resulted in degradation of forest land and has badly affected the condition of soil.

Some 55,049 tribal families in Tripura are involved in this primitive form of cultivation, covering forest area of about 40,000 hectares.

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