Maharashtra government declares 29.53-sq-km area in Konkan a conservation reserve - Hindustan Times
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Maharashtra government declares 29.53-sq-km area in Konkan a conservation reserve

Jun 24, 2020 02:34 AM IST

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday declared 29.53 square kilometre (sq km) area, comprising 10 villages in Dodamarg taluka, Sindhudurg district, as the Tillari Conservation Reserve.

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This is the first notified conservation reserve along the Konkan coast and the seventh in the state.

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With this decision, a certain section of the Dodamarg-Sawantwadi corridor, which has been under threat from mining, receives protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Conservation reserves are protected areas that act as buffer zones or migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, reserved and protected forests of India. However, these protected areas do not have surrounding eco-sensitive zones (protected buffers) as sanctuaries or national parks do. Also, any developmental or agricultural activity proposed within the reserve needs approval from the state and central wildlife boards.

The notification published on Tuesday by the revenue and forest department shows the area was protected based on the presence of tigers, elephants, and leopards. Other fauna include sloth bears, civets, pangolins, several resident and migratory bird species, and even the Indian giant squirrel (Maharashtra’s state animal). The flora includes 303 plant species, 127 types of trees including 99 medicinal plants.

“Tillari Conservation Reserve is a source of perennial water bodies, and an integral part of the Sahyadri-Konkan wildlife corridor. With this declaration, development activities are restricted, while mining is prohibited across 29.53 sq km areas, safeguarding the rich biodiversity of the tropical semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests. We will be setting up a committee to look after management and conservation of the reserve,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Maharashtra.

Located in the heart of the biodiversity hotspot, Western Ghats, the protected area falls between Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. This will be the 13th protected area along the Western Ghats in Maharashtra and 62nd across the state (including sanctuaries, national parks and tiger reserves).

“The reserve will act as a connector through the Western Ghat ridges, connecting the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in north Goa and the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka’s Belgaum district in the south to the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur district which lies in the north,” said Kakodkar.

According to the state forest department, there are four resident tigers – two adults and two sub-adults – present within the notified area.

“The Tilari ecosystem has a breeding tiger population, and acts as a source population for the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve,” said V Clement Ben, chief conservator of forest, Kolhapur. A transient population of around 25 tigers have been documented moving through the corridor over five years.

A family of five pachyderms (three adults including two tuskers, a female and their two calves) have also been spotted moving through the protected zone. Altogether, there are of 19 species of mammals, 12 species of amphibians, 71 species of birds, 60 species of butterflies, two species of damselflies, 16 species of reptiles, four species of scorpions, four species of spiders and five species of other invertebrates, according to biodiversity assessments carried out over the years, said Ben, adding, “This is a win-win situation, in which the wildlife corridor is getting strengthened and sustainable livelihood model for the fringe villagers are ensured. At the same time ecotourism shall find a fillip in the days to come.”

The 10 villages in Dodamarg taluka that form the reserve’s boundary include Bambarde, Ghatiwade, Kendre Bank, Kendre Khadi, Patiye, Shirange, Konal, Ainode, Hewale and Medhe. The entire Dodamarg taluka has 53 villages. The notification, however, did not include the extension of the water body (Tillari dam) within the taluka.

Petitioners striving to protect the Dodamarg-Sawantwadi corridor before the Bombay high court (HC) said the latest notification included eight of the 38 villages from Dodamarg taluka they sought protection for.

“The notification of the reserve and orders to declare the entire corridor an eco-sensitive area are two separate subjects. We welcome that certain section of this corridor is now protected due to this notification but we need to be wary of surrounding areas that are still open to the mining lobby, and need similar safety,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti and petitioner before the HC.

Area was originally proposed as a wildlife sanctuary: Forest department

In 2016, the Maharashtra forest department had proposed to declare 57 sq km area of Tillari as a wildlife sanctuary across 25 villages, but after stiff opposition from locals, the proposed protected area was reduced to 29.53 sq km.

“Locals were worried that declaring the area a sanctuary would hamper developmental work, economic losses and livelihood issues. Thus, the plan was altered, the area was reduced and the locals were taken into confidence before the final notification for the conservation reserve was issued,” said Kakodkar.

State’s seven conservation reserves

2008: 3.49 sqkm Borgad Conservation Reserve (eastern Nashik)

2013: 180.72 sqkm Kolamarka Conservation Reserve (Gadchiroli)

2014: 122.74 sqkm Muktai Bhawani Conservation Reserve (Jalgaon)

2014: 54.46sqkm Mamdapur Conservation Reserve (near Nashik)

2016: 93.42 sqkm Tornamal Conservation Reserve (near Nandurbar)

2017: 5.69 sqkm Anjaneri Conservation Reserve (near Nashik)

2020: 29.53 sqkm Tillari Conservation Reserve (Sindhudurg)

What is a conservation reserve

According to the Union environment ministry, conservation reserves are protected areas that act as buffer zones or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India.

These protected area categories were first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002. These categories were added because of reduced protection in and around existing or proposed protected areas due to private ownership of land and land use

With this latest declaration, there are now 92 conservation reserves in India across 12 states. Jammu and Kashmir has the maximum reserves (34), followed by Karnataka (15) and Rajasthan (11).

(Source: National Wildlife Database, Wildlife Institute of India)

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