11th Feb 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – What is ‘protected special agricultural zone’ and what is its importance? Analyse.
Context – By announcing that the Cauvery delta region, Tamil Nadu’s rice bowl comprising eight districts, will be declared as ‘Protected Special Agricultural Zone’ (PSAZ), State Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami has recognised farmer concerns about hydrocarbon exploration and accorded primacy to food security.
- His decision comes weeks after he protested the Centre’s unilateral amendment of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006, exempting prior environmental clearance and public consultations for oil and gas exploration.
What is Protected Agriculture Zone (PAZ)?
- Protected Special Agriculture Zone means that particular a region granted PAZ status will not be granted permission for any new projects like those related to hydrocarbons.
- Only Agro based Industries would be given permission to be built.
- The protected zone will include Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam districts and delta regions of Trichy, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Pudukkottai.
Why is this protection required?
- In 2017, a government notification delineated 45 villages covering about 23,000 hectares in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts in the delta, as a Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region, with an eye on over ₹90,000 crore in investments. But the Cauvery Delta Region is an important agricultural region in Tamil Nadu and farmers continue to do agriculture, despite climate changes.
- The delta, which produces 33 lakh tonnes of grains in 28 lakh acres, has seen multiple protests for a decade over methane, hydrocarbon, oil and natural gas projects, which required acquisition of fertile lands and well drilling — proposals which triggered fears of groundwater contamination.
- It is just and reasonable that projects like hydrocarbon exploration have raised concerns among farmers and other agriculture-based labourers.
- Since the delta region is close to the sea, there is a need to safeguard the region.
- Agricultural scientists such as M.S. Swaminathan have for long mooted such zones similar to special economic zones; Uttarakhand and Kerala have them.
- Whatever the project introduced by the centre, it cannot be implemented without the NOC from that state.
- The benefits are manifold. Drilling for extraction of oil and gas in these regions that hampers agriculture and posing much environmental impact or health hazards will be stopped immediately.
- There is a need to maintain equity between the agricultural and economic sector. Al policies must be made keeping long-term impacts in mind.
Note – The article on coronavirus has already been covered twice.
Refer to the article of 24th January.