Dandi (Gujarat), July 7 (IANS) Almost 80 years after Mahatma Gandhi picked up a fistful of salt to stir a country’s conscience for self-rule here, a fitting tribute was launched Wednesday in the form of an initiative to conserve the region’s environment based on Gandhian teachings as well as promote eco-tourism.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh accompanied by the Mahatma’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, announced the launch of the eco-memorial aptly called GANDHI – Green Action for National Dandi Heritage Initiative.
Where once the Mahatma walked a cart track leading a dedicated band of followers in his quest for independence, a tarred road snakes through the rural green. The mud-thatch huts and hamlets of old have been replaced by swanky bungalows and opulent urban dwellings, which dot the last 14-km stretch leading to the historical hub of the salt satyagraha.
‘Change is the essence of life and it is good,’ said teenager Vipul Naik, while elderly Gandhian Chandrakantbhai Desai is saddened by it. ‘We need to preserve Gandhian values before nothing is left of it,’ Desai said.
‘It is a project for the overall development and conservation of the environment of Dandi and it’s surrounding villages based on Gandhian teachings on environmental conservation and village development,’ Ramesh told mediapersons after planting two saplings to mark the project’s launch.
‘The Mahatma would not have willed it any other way,’ added Gopal Krishna Gandhi, chairman of the Dandi memorial committee.
Ramesh said that project aims to take up promotion of eco-tourism and environment-positive branding of Dandi as well.
‘We propose to promote Dandi as a tourism destination and in such a manner that all products associated with it are environment positive. The entire heritage area is aimed to be made a major centre for learning on Gandhian thoughts and philosophy,’ the environment minister said.
The Rs.25 crore project, which forms part of a larger Rs.300 crore World Bank assisted Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) programme for Gujarat, entails planting of mangroves in a 100-hectare area – eight kilometres along the shoreline – and a 50 hectare bioshield besides additional activities like beach nourishment and conservation of coastal features and wetlands.
‘Besides adopting nature-based development of resources, particularly solar and wind energy, water conservation and waste management will be taken up in four village areas. These include setting up a solar energy-based desalination plant as well as windmills,’ he added.
The two-year project being undertaken by the Environment and Forest Ministry will be implemented by the Society for Integrated Coastal Zone Management in collaboration with village panchayats, the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC) with the Gujarat Vidyapith and other centres of Gandhian learning in India pitching in.
Ramesh said that GANDHI would promote integrated village and community development -supporting activities to turn the core area of four villages surrounding Dandi into carbon neutral villages to demonstrate the Gandhian ideal of preserving the purity of nature.
‘Promoting self-help groups based on income generation activities to make the wasteland suitable for agriculture, horticulture and fodder cultivation, and promoting khadi products and local handicrafts, particularly to replace plastics, would remain a priority of the project,’ he added.