Centre notifies protected buffer around Maharashtra’s Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary
The Union environment ministry has published the final notification for the buffer area around Maharashtra’s 351.16 sq km Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur district. The final eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the sanctuary now will have an area of 250.6 sq km spread across 200 m to 6.01 km against the originally proposed 230.6 sq km in the draft notification of 2019. The 20 sq km accounts for a 9% increase in the protected area.
The notification was published on October 15 and made public on Wednesday.
There are 41 villages in the notified ESZ in Kolhapur and Vaibhavwadi Sindhudurg districts. “The minimum extent of the ESZ (200 meters) was due to the non-availability of forest land near Kurli village of Sindhudurg district. However, we have managed to protect much more area than in our draft notification towards the western end of sanctuary. With this, over 70% of existing area is protected around the sanctuary,” said V Clement Ben, chief conservator of forest (Kolhapur).
Located towards the southern hills of the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats in the catchment areas of Shahu Sagar and Laxmi Sagar reservoirs, the sanctuary is home to 264 bird species (migratory and resident), 47 species of mammals, about 59 species of reptiles, 20 species of amphibians and 66 species of butterflies across the mixed landscape of semi-evergreen, evergreen and tropical deciduous forests.
Important wildlife there includes the leopard cat, common palm civet, common mongoose, Indian wild dog, sloth bear, Indian giant squirrel, elephants, gaurs, tigers, and leopards.
“The extremely close vicinity of RWS [Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary] to human habitation and ongoing developmental activities necessitates the requirement of proper safeguards and control over such activities. It is necessary to conserve and protect the area, the extent, and boundaries … from an ecological, environmental and biodiversity point of view and to prohibit industries or class of industries and their operations,” the ministry said in its final notification.
Establishing an ESZ around a wildlife area helps conserve the ecosystem since only agriculture, small scale industries, and minor infrastructure work are permitted in an ESZ. Mining and red category industries are prohibited.
“The final notification enhances protection for this zone. Now the deemed ESZ of 10 km will cease to exist. This will help in the execution of development projects in a smooth manner outside the notified area while stressing the importance of stringent measures in the notified area. It will overall strengthen wildlife conservation and ensure mining and pollution-causing industries are prohibited in the notified ESZ,” said Ben.
Activist Satyajit Chavan said, “This is a welcome decision as peripheral areas around the sanctuary were being eyed by the mining lobby. We hope other areas such as the Dodamarg-Sawantwadi corridor will also get similar protection.”
Similar to other ESZ notifications, a list of prohibited, regulated, and promoted activities have been listed in the final notification. It has called for the preparation of a zonal master plan within two years from the date of publication for the protection of the ESZ. An ESZ monitoring committee headed by the Kolhapur district collector has also been constituted. “The monitoring committee will ensure proper enforcement of allowed, regulated, or prohibited activities in the ESZ,” said a Union environment ministry official, requesting anonymity.
In December 2018, the Supreme Court directed the ministry to declare ESZs around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries without buffer zones.
“We have finalised the ESZs around almost all sanctuaries and national parks. We now aim to propose more protected areas including conservation and community reserves,” the ministry official said.