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Excluding villages from new Western Ghats ESA proposal, opening them up for mining, industries to be disastrous for environment: RS MP

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 24, 2020 11:34 PM IST

The Maharashtra government’s proposal to exclude previously identified villages in its final Western Ghats eco-sensitive area (ESA) notification and open them up for industrial and mining activities has received objections from Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje.

Calling for a ban on mining activities across Kolhapur and the Sahyadri range in the ghats, the MP had on May 21 written to chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray and Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar to reconsider the setting up red category industries in ESAs in the region, which includes a tiger reserve.

“I request you to ensure that grant of permission for increase industrialisation, mining, and infrastructure development in ESA’s of Kolhapur in particular and Sahyadri Western Ghats is shelved. Both Madhav Gadgil and committee chaired by K Kasturirangan warned against the destruction of the Western Ghats,” read Raje’s letter.

While speaking to HT, Raje, the heir to the Kolhapur royal family and a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, said that opening up areas for mining and industries will destroy its ecological value and expose its nearby zones to natural disasters. “The entire Western Ghats holds historical significance, with the Kolhapur and Sahyadri range having huge heritage value from the time of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It needs to be protected and preserved as a World Heritage Site as designated by the United Nations. The state should support green and sustainable industries such as solar and wind, give employment to local communities and refrain from environmentally damaging proposals,” he said.

Meanwhile, state forest minister Sanjay Rathod said that the final deliberations on the proposal were still underway.

“We have studied specific details of the proposal and the environment ministry is yet to give the final nod. A report will be submitted to the CM’s office soon based on follow up meetings we have had. Final discussions on the subject will take place in the coming days based on the CM’s suggestions on the report,” said Rathod.

On Thursday, the state had proposed the inclusion of 2,092 of 2,133 villages or 15,359 sq km of the originally proposed 17,340 sq km, thereby excluding 11.4% area from the draft Western Ghats ESA, and leaving out crucial wildlife corridors, buffer areas of tiger reserves and sanctuaries. The state proposed exclusion of 17 villages for industrial activities and 13 for mining based on suggestions from the industries department and mining bodies.

The Savarde village, which lies in the core zone of the Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur, the Maloshi and Bamnoli villages in Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary in Satara, and the Yelan Gai village which was earlier marked as a mining village in the buffer area of the Sahayadri Tiger Reserve, are some of the villages that have been excluded.

Raje said that last year in August, 56 people died owing to floods in western Maharashtra, while 4.09 lakh people were affected across 386 villages in Kolhapur district alone. “If ecological destruction is allowed to continue, such catastrophes will only increase,” said the MP.

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