Malin, the village in Ambegaon taluka near Pune, flattened by a landslide on Wednesday, was one of the three high-risk villages in the region marked "Ecologically Sensitive Areas" by the Kasturirangan Committee report on Western Ghats last year.
Subsequently, the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) notified it, in November 2013, as ecologically sensitive and recommended a no-development policy. It was a warning to hold back all activities in the ecologically-fragile region, but one that was ignored by local and state authorities.
In this handout photograph released by the Maharashtra chief minister's office, excavators dig through mud and debris at the scene of a landslide in Malin village in Pune. (AFP photo)
Don and Rajpur were the two other villages marked out in Ambegaon taluka, in the notification. These three villages were part of a list of more than 25 hamlets and villages in this taluka alone that were protected under the MoEF notification.
However, the state has not been serious about implementing the MoEF notifications because quarrying and flattening of hill tops has been quite consistent in the last few years, said a Pune-based RTI activist who has been pursuing the issue for over three years.
The MoEF notification stated the Kasturirangan Committee report "has recommended a no-tolerance policy with respect to highly interventionist and environmentally damaging activities like mining or polluting industries... The committee has highlighted the need for urgent action for protection of biologically rich, diverse and natural landscape of Western Ghats".
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Besides Pune district, the MoEF notification identifies villages in Ahmednagar, Dhule, Kolhapur, Nashik, Pune, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sangli, Sindhudurg and Thane districts in Maharashtra that fall in the ecologically sensitive zones and must be protected against interventionist activities at all costs.
The region of Katraj hill, near Pune, has also seen an immense amount of flattening and quarrying activities in the last two-three years; it has also had landslides last two years.
The Sahyadri hill range has been under threat from exactly the kind of "intervention activities" that the MoEF notification advises against. Malin, as well as other hamlets in the area, lie in this zone.