KOZHIKODE: The climate change and biodiversity hotspot of Wayanad took its first steps towards eco-restoration and climate change mitigation with the rolling out of the state's first carbon neutrality project on the World Environment Day on Sunday.
State Finance minister T M Thomas Isaac unveiled the project to make Meenangadi the first carbon neutral panchayat at a function held at Pathiripallam. He said that the aim was to make the hill district of Wayanad the first carbon neutral district in the country.
The minister promised the local bodies of the district all help from the state government in implementing the ambitious project.
Thomas Isaac said that the project aimed to reduce and offset the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve carbon neutrality which is key to averting the worst impacts of climate change which is being felt in the district.
"Once Meenangadi achieves carbon neutrality, it will have a significant and positive impact across various sectors including agriculture. The agriculture produce from the panchayat, including coffee, can be marketed with the carbon- neutral tag," Thomas Isaac said.
As the first step of the project, the panchayat would soon commence a carbon audit covering its entire 9000 households to assess emissions from all types of human activities.
"The survey would cover the domestic consumption of energy including electricity and fuels in all the households, and emissions from transportation. It would also assess emission from the limited number of small factories in the panchayat," Meenangadi panchayat president Beena Vijayan said.
After analysing the emission levels, steps would be taken to reduce them through various targeted interventions in the areas of renewable energy, waste management and by changes in current agriculture practices.
The carbon audit will be conducted by roping in students from schools and colleges and other volunteers.
Once the carbon emissions is calculated, required number of trees will be planted to offset the inevitable emissions to make the panchayat carbon neutral. Also panchayat and municipal bodies would prepare specific projects under their annual plan to reduce carbon emissions by distributing smoke-less ovens and low-energy LED lights and implementing solid waste composting covering all households.
Also a massive afforestation programme would be undertaken through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MNREGS).
The technical support for the project is being provided by Thanal, the Zoology department of Kannur University, and M S Swaminathan Research Foundation
In a separate function, Thomas Isaac also inaugurated the mass greening initiative in the district, which had set the target of distributing 10 lakh tree saplings, by planting a tree sapling on the banks of the Kabani river at Kolavally in Mullankolly panchayath which had witnessed unprecedented drought this summer.