BJP MP Varun Gandhi might have felt that it was not politically expedient for him, as a ruling party member, to protest when he did not get a clear answer to his query from Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. The protest came from his aunt Sonia Gandhi, president of the Opposition Congress, during question hour in Lok Sabha. “Jawab do”, Sonia was heard saying, shaking her head, when Javadekar finished replying.
Varun, who represents Sultanpur constituency of Uttar Pradesh, had asked whether India was “employing any scientific technique for wetland conservation”. He cited the examples of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as “world leaders in wetland renewal techniques”.
Javadekar dwelt at length on encroachment of wetlands, their use for farming, housing and disposal of sewage by state governments, but did not precisely respond to Varun’s query. The minister took note of Sonia’s dissatisfaction, and was seen gesturing to her to indicate that he would send her more details. However, she continued to shake her head in disapproval.
Javadekar informed the House that 115 sites had been identified as wetlands under the Wetlands Conservation Programme. The government, he maintained, was open to suggestions for making additions to the list. He identified encroachments as a real danger and said draft wetland rules addressed the issue of erosion.
In a written response, the minister said the government had merged two programmes for conservation of lakes and wetlands for better synergy. He said the Centre had released Rs 146.94 crore to states and other organisations for conservation of wetlands.