The state government will have to hear what owners of windmills located in the Koyna wildlife sanctuary have to say before acting against them for allegedly causing ecological damage to the surroundings.
The Bombay high court on Thursday directed the government to give windmill owners a show-cause notice and hear their side of the matter.
The Indian Wind Energy Association has 350 members including big corporate houses such as Tata and Bajaj who have installed windmills inside the sanctuary. It had approached the high court after the government issued them notices on November 30 asking them to pull down the structures they had built in the notified area within 60 days.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice SJ Kathawala has said if the government’s order is against the windmill owners, it should not be implemented for eight weeks.
The association’s counsel, Aarif Bookwala, and advocate Filji Frederick argued that the windmills have been installed on private land and not in the notified forest area.
“Before installing windmills, we [the owners] had taken permission form all concerned authorities. Today, windmills are the cleanest form of energy generation and India ranks number five in generating wind energy. Holland practically runs on windmills,” Bookwala argued.
The high court had in October imposed an interim stay on construction of tourist resorts, installation of windmills and tree felling in the protected forest area in the Western Ghats to prevent further damage to the ecology of the sanctuary.
The stay was imposed when the court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Satara-based activist, Nana Khamkar. Khamkar’s petition sought the preservation of the Koyna wildlife sanctuary saying it is under threat because the government has illegally permitted the installation of windmills, which requires the felling of trees.
Khamkar’s PIL also challenged the state government’s New Mahabaleshwar Project near Satara conceptualised to decongest the twin hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgini.
While imposing the interim stay on construction within the sanctuary, the court had directed the government to clear encroachments from inside the sanctuary. Following this, the government issued notices to all windmill owners through the assistant conservator of forests asking them to remove their structures from the notified area.
The high court will hear the matter on January 6.