Maharashtra wildlife board reconstituted 8 months after new govt formation
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s approval for new members led to the reconstitution of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), which is empowered to exercise its powers under the Wildlife Act, 1972, on Tuesday late evening.
The new-look 29-member Board was formed eight months after the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, comprising coalition partners, the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, came to power under the leadership of CM Thackeray.
SBWL authorities had last met in December 2018 and as a result, several key decisions, including translocation of big cats, the fate of big-ticket development projects, and wildlife mitigation measures, have been on hold over the past 18 months.
On Tuesday evening, the Maharashtra government announced and published a government resolution (GR) that the CM would be the chairman of the board, while forest minister Sanjay Rathore would be the vice-chairman.
Nitin Kakodkar, the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) (wildlife), was appointed the member-secretary of SBWL, which has a fixed three-year tenure, starting July 7.
HT had reported on May 17 that the state chief wildlife warden had written to the Maharashtra government, drawing its attention to an immediate reconstitution of SBWL.
The body is responsible for taking key conservation-related and policymaking decisions for all 42 wildlife sanctuaries, including six tiger reserves, five national parks, and protected forests in Maharashtra.
It also issues clearances for development projects, suggests wildlife mitigation measures and is the recommending body for notification of new protected areas.
SBWL is the nodal authority that takes decisions on major research projects in wildlife zones.
“It’s an important body for all wildlife-related activities in the state. The reconstituted Board will give an impetus to wildlife conservation in Maharashtra,” said Kakodkar.
However, no date has been announced for the first meeting of the new-look Board.
“We hope a meeting is convened urgently to take several pending decisions on the lines of similar exercises that are being undertaken by National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), via video-conference links because of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic,” he added.
SBWL’s final recommendations on key development projects such as Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train; wildlife mitigation measures for Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway (Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg); the 126-kilometre (km) Virar-Alibag multi-modal corridor; railways’ dedicated Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor; Goregaon-Mulund tunnel, which will pass through the boundaries of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary; and two interstate irrigation projects between Maharashtra and Telangana -- Pranahita Chevella and Chanaka-Korata – have all been pending since December 2018.
Other members of the SBWL include minister for environment and tourism Aditya Thackeray; minister of state (forests) Dattatraya Bharane; and Dheeraj Deshmukh, a member of the Maharashtra legislative assembly (MLA).
Environmentalist Bittu Sahgal from Mumbai; Kishor Rithe from Amravati; Anuj Khare from Pune; Vishwas Katdare from Ratnagiri; Kundan Hate from Nagpur; Suhas Waingankar from Kolhapur, among others, represent the non-government members of SBWL.
Besides, there is a representative each from the MoEFCC; Maharashtra Police; Indian Army; Zoological Survey of India (ZSI); Botanical Survey of India; Bombay Natural History Society; Wildlife Institute of India; Wildlife Conservation Trust; and commissioners of both state fisheries and animal husbandry departments.
“SBWL is the highest wildlife policymaking body in the state. Maharashtra has followed several good practices since 2010 while dealing with the negative impacts of infrastructure projects. The new-look SBWL will take this work forward. Besides, CM Thackeray himself is a keen wildlife lover,” said Rithe, a non-government member of the Board.