Activities of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust (GOMBRT), a special purpose vehicle set up for the conservation of the biodiversity in the region, have virtually come to a standstill with the State government yet to release funds after taking over its functioning from January 1 this year.

The Government issued a G.O. on November 16, 2012, taking over the functioning of the trust after UNDP funding came to an end on December 31, 2012 and sanctioned Rs. 2.50 crore for 2013-14, but the amount is yet to be released.

“Three telephone lines, an internet and fax lines were disconnected for non payment of bills and alternative livelihood training programmes and Eco development activities scheduled for the year 2013-14 remained a non-starter,” sources in GOMBRT said.

Electricity bills were also not paid since April but the authorities took a lenient stand and have not disconnected the power supply, the sources said.

Thanks to the office functioning in Jawan Bhavan, a government building, they were not asked to vacate the premises for non payment of the monthly rent of Rs. 4,000, the sources said.

The Director of the Trust, Eco Development Officer, Zonal Officer and Sub Zonal Officer who were deputed to the Trust were drawing salary from the Treasury while others who were on consolidated pay, including the Biodiversity programme officer, Stenographer, drivers and office assistants could not get their salaries since April, the sources added.

The 66 Field Project Workers who were appointed for a monthly salary of Rs. 4,500 were, however, paid from the revolving fund for the time being as they monitored the functioning of Self Help Groups, which had a revolving fund of about Rs. 10 crore, the sources pointed out.

About 240 wards of the fisherfolk who had completed professional training programme such as Nursing, Catering and AC Mechanic training could not be issued certificates as the Trust owed Rs. 50,000 to the Institutions which offered the training programmes, the sources said.

There were five vehicles with the Trust but they could not be run for want of fuel. Officers use their own money for fuel, whenever they make field visits, the sources said.

If the present situation persisted, the officers who came on deputation would seek transfers back to their parent departments and the Trust would not be able to achieve its goal, they warned.

After taking over the Trust, the government had sanctioned Rs. 48 lakh for three months (January-March) until the commencement of the financial year in April for running the office, meeting the expenditure for buying fuel for vehicles and making payment to field staff and contract workers, but that was also not released yet, the sources said.

The Chief Conservator of Forest, Madurai circle (south zone extension) was presently holding additional charge as Director of the Trust.

GOMBRT was established on July 25, 2002 with a project cycle of seven years. Later, it was extended for a further period of three years up to December 31, 2012 to function with UNDP funding.

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