The moratorium on development activity in the Sawantwadi-Doddamarg wildlife corridor, imposed by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) in August 2011, will be in place till September end.
Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Awaaz Foundation, a city-based NGO, MoEF counsel Navina Kumai on Tuesday informed the Bombay high court that the Central ministry had decided to extend the moratorium for three months beyond its scheduled expiry date of June 30. She said formal orders to the effect would be issued after the minister of environment and forests returns from a foreign tour.
Replying to a court query, Kumai said that so far only Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala governments had forwarded their comments on the report by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, and the MoEF was still waiting for response from Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and sought four months for the ministry to take a final decision on the panel’s report.
Senior advocate Gautam Patel, representing one of the interveners in the PIL, however, pointed out that the panel has made separate location-specific recommendations for each state and therefore, it was not necessary for MoEF to wait for a response from all the six states in which Sahyadri range is spread. The division bench of justice DD Sinha and justice VK Tahilramani, then directed the MoEF to state within three weeks as to when it would take a final decision on the report. The panel has thoroughly studied Sahyadri range, identified ecologically sensitive areas, and has made recommendations for preserving the areas.
The Awaaz Foundation has approached the court seeking directions to the MoEF to declare the Sawantwadi-Doddamarg wildlife corridor as an ecologically sensitive area, fearing rapid degradation of bio-diversity reserves in the region.