Maharashtra gets 12 new conservation reserves and three wildlife sanctuaries
Kolamarka, which is affected by the presence of Left-wing extremists, has endangered Asiatic wild buffaloes (Bubalusarnee).
In a major boost for wildlife conservation and environment protection movement, the Maharashtra State Board for Wildlife (MSBWL) has approved 12 new conservation reserves and three wildlife sanctuaries. Put together, these protected areas (PAs) will have an area of almost 1,000 sq km (around 692.74 sq km for conservation reserves and 303 sq km for wildlife sanctuaries), which is twice the size of Mumbai city’s 482 sq km.
The MSBWL held a meeting on Monday chaired by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. The board approved the notification of 12 new conservation reserves, namely Chivatibavari and Alaldari in Dhule; Kalwan, Muragad, Triambakeshwar and Igatpuri in Nashik; Raigad and Roha in Raigad district; Bhor in Pune; Dare Khurd (Mahadare) in Satara; Masai plateau in Kolhapur and Mogarkasa in Nagpur.
The state will also get three new wildlife sanctuaries, namely the extension of the Lonar wildlife sanctuary (0.8694 sq km), Kolamarka in Gadchiroli (180.72 sq km) and Muktai Bhawani in Jalgaon (122.74 sq km).
Kolamarka, which is affected by the presence of Left-wing extremists, has endangered Asiatic wild buffaloes (Bubalusarnee). The area was notified as a conservation reserve in 2013.
As per the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, the consent of the wildlife board is a must before notifying any fresh PAs in the state.
So far, 15 conservation reserves have been notified in Maharashtra. With new additions, the number will rise to 27.
“Notifying an area as a wildlife sanctuary leads to opposition from local residents and stakeholders as it becomes an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), in which developmental activities are prohibited. The conservation reserves do not involve such restrictions. They connect existing PAs like sanctuaries and national parks and act as wildlife migration corridors. There is scope for notifying them as sanctuaries in the future,” explained a senior official from the state forest department.
Any developmental or agricultural activities in a conservation reserve must have the approval of the state and national boards for wildlife.
Besides, approvals were also given for declaring 10 critical wildlife habitats in Mayureshwar-Supe (5.145 sq km), Bor (61.64 sq km), New Bor (60.69 sq km), Narnala (12.35 sq km), Lonar wildlife sanctuary (3.65 sq km), Gugamal national park (361.28 sq km), Yedshi Ramlinghat wildlife sanctuary (22.37 sq km), Naigaon-Mayur wildlife sanctuary (29.90 sq km)) and Deulgaon-Rehkuri blackbuck sanctuary (2.17 sq km). These critical wildlife habitats will be inviolate areas within national parks and wildlife sanctuaries for conservation. Linear projects like roads and railway lines will be prohibited there.
Directives were also given to complete a study in two months on resolving the problems caused by the herds of wild elephants at Dodamarg in Sindhudurg and nearby areas which enter the state from neighbouring Karnataka.
“Elephants are landscape animals that move over long distances for their biological needs. They cannot be confined to a particular area. We are working on developing a co-existence model, wherein their presence will be monitored and villagers will be warned about their movements on lines of the system in Coorg and Madikeri. Compensation given to farmers for crop depredations may also be hiked,” explained a forest department official, adding that officials and experts from Karnataka would be involved in the study.
Meanwhile, the board also approved a 4.5 km elevated corridor from Hotel Fountain on Ghodbunder road to Gaimukh and the proposal will now be sent to the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) for its consent.
The ₹1,595 crore project, which is being undertaken by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), will decongest the road, which is a vital link between the western and eastern express highways.
The project will also involve the diversion of 8.845 hectares of forest land from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), and incorporate mitigation measures to enable wildlife dispersal. Officials said that an 800-metre stretch will be entirely elevated (with four lanes on either side) to allow wild animals to disperse. Elsewhere, the road will have four lanes on the surface and four lanes on the elevated section.
Additionally, a drinking water scheme for Aurangabad city that will cover constructions in the Jayakwadi bird sanctuary in the district was approved by MSBWL. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has repeatedly attacked the government over the water crisis in the Marathwada town.
Maharashtra has six national parks, 50 sanctuaries and 15 conservation reserves. It has six tiger projects, namely, Melghat, Tadoba-Andhari, Pench, Sahyadri, Navegaon-Nagzira and Bor. As per the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) ‘Status of Tigers in India, 2018’ report, the estimated number of tigers in Maharashtra was 312 as against 190 in 2014.