In a major reprieve for more than 200 windmill owners, the Bombay high court last week stayed an order issued by the forests department directing their eviction from the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary.
The order issued on July 7 by the division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Girish Godbole, however, restrained the windmill owners from carrying out any further construction within the limits of the sanctuary.
In May 2011, the assistant conservator of forests (wildlife) had issued orders directing
the eviction of 203 windmills, 10 resorts and more than 1,200 civil constructions from the sanctuary.
Four windmill owners, including Ghodavat Energy Pvt. Ltd., which has set up 25 windmills in the area, had moved the high court challenging the order, contending that they had commissioned windmills in non-forest areas that have been excluded from the sanctuary limits.
They further contended that they had constructed the windmills strictly in accordance with the state government’s policy. Their counsel, Arif Bookwala, said that the windmill owners and allied industries have invested over Rs500 crores and implementation of the eviction order would completely ruin them.
The petition claims that the 203 windmills are not only contributing 80 megawatts electricity to the state grid by generating approximately 140 million units of electricity annually, but are also contributing indirectly towards reducing environmental pollution being a non-conventional source of energy.
Though the windmills, resorts and other constructions are in existence for more than a decade, the forest department started taking steps to evict them in November 2010 after the high court directed it to consider issuance of eviction notices to persons, who have undertaken constructions in notified areas of the sanctuary.
The court had issued the direction following a public interest litigation filed by Karad-based environmentalist Nana Khamkar, raising concerns about the inclusion of 35 villages in the proposed Sahyadri Tiger Project within New Mahabaleshwar hill station.