The State government, with assistance from Japan, has sanctioned Rs.686 crore for the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Bio Diversity and Afforestation Programme, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said on Monday.

Speaking after inaugurating the 18th National Children's Science Congress at Vel's University in Pallavaram, he said this was part of the efforts taken by the government along with the Centre to conserve and protect natural resources. Out of a total geographic area of 1.30 crore hectares in the State, less than 3 per cent was cultivable land.

Referring to the theme of the Congress, ‘Land resources – use for prosperity and save for posterity', Mr. Karunanidhi said land and water were the most essential resources of a nation. “They are under tremendous stress due to natural calamities and manmade causes. We have to learn to reduce the pace of degradation, while accelerating the process of development.”

The Chief Minister said modern methods of agriculture had helped to increase the produce but the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides had affected land use. Water pollution was also degrading land.

Rising temperatures and green house gases had caused a shift in the land use pattern, he said, outlining the efforts of the State and Central governments in preserving and conserving natural resources in Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Karunanidhi stressed the importance of inculcating creative and scientific thinking among children from a young age. “Children should be encouraged to develop creative and scientific thinking as they are future citizens of the country. Scientific and creative thinking are of great importance in a knowledge economy.”

He said that the aim of the National Children's Science Congress was to provide a forum for children in 10-17 age groups to “exhibit their creativity, more particularly their ability to solve societal problems through science.” He said Children's Science Congress encouraged a sense of discovery among children.

Mr. Karunanidhi said that while he would prefer speaking in Tamil, he was addressing the audience in English as a large number of students and teachers were from outside the State. The Chief Minister released a souvenir of the silver jubilee of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology.

Kamal Kant Dwivedi, Head, National Council for Science and Technology Communication, lauded the efforts of TN Science Forum and TN State Council of Science and Technology for organising the event. Through the annual science congresses so far, they had reached out to 1 crore children directly. They had received requests from other member countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and Association of South East Asian Nations for taking part in the event. Hopefully, next year, the Children's Science Congress would be a global event.

R.N. Ray, Chairman, NCSTC – Network, said India was the only country to host such an event for children on such a large scale for so long. The network of science councils was the biggest in the world with groups active in 620 districts in the country.

While NCSTC is the national organiser, TN Science Forum is the host and TN State Council for Science and Technology and Vel's University are the co-hosts.

State Ministers K. Ponmudy, Thangam Thennarasu and T.M. Anbarasan spoke. S. Vincent, Member Secretary, TNSCST, welcomed the gathering. Ishari K.Ganesh, Chancellor, Vel's University, presided.

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