Development not at cost of ecology, says CM at first wildlife board meet
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday emphasised that development projects will not be done at the cost of damage to the ecology and environment. Thackeray, in the first meeting of the newly formed State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), said that for the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government development is not merely construction but also preservation of forest and wildlife.
The CM approved three key projects in the state including the declaration of the 2,011 square kilometre (sqkm) Angria Bank as a protected area, appointing Sonneratia alba as state mangrove tree, and a recovery programme for Arabian Sea humpback whale.
Maharashtra became the first state in the country to declare a state mangrove tree. Sonneratia alba is one of the important evergreen mangrove tree species in the coastal districts of Maharashtra, known as white chippi in local parlance as it bears beautiful white flowers.
Angria Bank, a submerged plateau 120km off Malvan coast, if approved by the Centre, will be the first such marine protected zone in India. SBWL approved the recommendation to the Central government to notify Angria Bank as a designated area.
SBWL also recommended starting a research programme including visual survey, genetics study, workshops, seminars and training for personnel to rehabilitate Arabian Sea Humpback whales. “We will be using a combination of acoustic and visual monitoring methods to understand the behaviour as well for long term conservation of the species. Our proposal is for five years at a cost of ₹6.12 crore,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mangrove Cell). Kakokdar said it would be funded 60% by the Centre and remaining by the state.
Thackeray, during the meeting, made it clear that henceforth all projects that come for approval from SBWL will be tabled only if they have a recent drone survey along with the requisite Environment Impact Assessment Report (EIA).
“In the very first meet of the newly formed board, he has given out a firm message that wildlife and environment is as important as development, shan’t be compromised. More so, @CMOMaharashtra @OfficeofUT emphasised that all proposed human development projects must compulsorily come with not just EIA but present-day drone survey,” state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted after the meeting.
One of the proposals on the agenda which was not approved was a renewal of the lease for bauxite mining in Minchebudruk village of Kolhapur district. “The mine falls next to Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary. The CM expressed his displeasure over such a proposal next to a wildlife sanctuary and dismissed it,” said a board member, who did not wish to be named.
Aaditya, in a tweet, called for “balanced and sustainable” development. “Forest management and aquatic wildlife management has to be more robust, empathetic towards the biodiversity and ensure development that is balanced and sustainable,” the environment minister said in a series of tweets.
Other key decisions include formation of a committee to study measures to reduce the population of tigers to avoid human-tiger conflict in Chandrapur.
“It was highlighted that there have been over 150 deaths in Chandrapur between 2007 and 2020, and with over 50% of the state’s tiger population in one district, the situation is worrisome. Now, the state will constitute a committee at the Mantralaya level which will deliberate on possible measures to address this problem,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) and member secretary of SBWL.
Mitigation measures suggested by sub-committees under SBWL for projects such as the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail, Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor, Goregaon-Mulund link road and Nagpur-Mumbai super expressway proposed around Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Tansa and Thane creek flamingo sanctuary, were presented before the board. “It was decided these mitigation measures in the form of animal underpasses and elevated corridors would be clubbed for all these projects and implemented simultaneously,” said Kakokdar.
He added that the proposal to convert the Akola to Khandwa meter gauge railway line from the Melghat Tiger Reserve to a broad gauge railway line was rejected by the board and it was proposed that the railway line would bypass the tiger reserve.
“We will also be exploring the declaration of areas such as Mogarkasa in Nagpur, Mahindri in Amravati, and Chandgad Patne adjoining Tillari in Sindhudurg, which were all proposed to be declared as conservation reserves,” said Kakodkar.
(With inputs from Badri Chatterjee)