The Rajasthan Government has sought approval from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for second phase of the forestry development and bio-diversity project, while promising that it would be implemented through a society to be established exclusively for this purpose. The project's first phase was completed in July this year.

Minister of State for Forest Ramlal Jat said at a meeting with the JICA representatives here on Wednesday that the Rs.1,370-crore project funded by the Japanese government agency had made a significant contribution to prevention of desertification and restored the ecological status of the Aravalli hills area falling in 16 districts. “We need continuation of this project to deal with the threats of climate change and for afforestation of barren lands which would augment livelihood opportun- ities for the rural poor,” said Mr. Jat.

The Minister pointed out that the project's first phase was executed with “full transparency and diligence” and the inhabitants of the 18 districts of its implementation were eagerly looking forward to its extension. Sixteen of these districts are in the Aravalli hills areas and two in the Indira Gandhi Canal area.

“We expect JICA to approve the project's second phase to continue the delivery of good results,” said Mr. Jat while replying to the queries of representatives of the Japanese government agency, which provides technical cooperation and other forms of aid to promote economic and social development in developing countries.

The project was launched in April 2003 to check desertification by intensive plantation and in situ soil and moisture conservation to improve the hydrology systems, protect the infrastructure from drifting sand, conserve gene pools and improve the diversity of flora and fauna and institutionalise joint forest management.