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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Maharashtra bans mining in Sindhudurg green hotspot

The forests are a crucial wildlife corridor and are home to not only around 22 to 25 endangered tigers but also to leopards, elephants, sloth bears, civets and Maharashtra’ state animal, the Indian giant squirrel.

mumbai Updated: Dec 19, 2018 15:17 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Maharashtra government has banned all forms of mining with 59 villages in the wildlife corridor connecting Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur in Maharashtra to Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka.
Maharashtra government has banned all forms of mining with 59 villages in the wildlife corridor connecting Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur in Maharashtra to Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka. (Pratik Chorge/HT File )
         

After the Bombay high court (HC) banned tree felling within an important wildlife corridor in Sindhudurg district, administrative and forest officials have gone the extra mile to also ban all forms of mining within 59 villages in the zone.

On December 5, the chief justice’s bench of the HC passed an order prohibiting tree felling in Dodamarg taluka, an important wildlife corridor connecting Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur in Maharashtra to Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka.

The HC order, based on a petition by NGO Vanashakti, also directed the state government and union environment ministry to take appropriate steps to declare it an ecologically sensitive area (ESA). Declaring an ESA means projects such as mining, quarrying, setting up of industries, townships and area development projects must be banned.

“Mining activities including sand mining operations and stone quarrying in this region have been stopped and fresh permissions will not be issued across the entire 50,000-hectare area as per HC orders,” said Dilip Pandharpatte, collector, Sindhudurg.

HT was the first to report on October 22 that the 38-km long elephant and tiger corridor along the Maharashtra-Goa border in the Western Ghats was not marked an ESA by the Union environment ministry. A total of 192 villages in Sindhudurg were marked ESA in the draft notification.

The forest department said they issued directions to 37 gram sabhas that monitor 59 villages to stop tree felling. However, over the past week, residents of Dodamarg had been protesting the HC order.

“The previous ban by the HC was for only 13 villages. Since the recent ban covers the entire district, including 46 new villages and 10,000-hectare reserved forest, villagers are upset. They cannot cut old trees on private land and plant new ones. A protest was held outside our office on Tuesday,” said Samadhan Chavan, deputy conservator of forest, Sawantwadi. “We are facing a staff crunch as only eight forest guards are monitoring the HC order across the 50,000-hectare taluka.”

The forests are a crucial wildlife corridor and are home to not only around 22 to 25 endangered tigers but also to leopards, elephants, sloth bears, civets and Maharashtra’ state animal, the Indian giant squirrel. The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, will be initiating a study from January to assess the biodiversity of Dodamarg.

The petitioner in the matter alleged that local politicians were trying to stop the ESA notification in the region. “These politicians are working overtime to convince villagers to resist the ESA declaration. The ESA will not impact the villager’s way of life. It is the big mining corporations with vested interests who will be affected,” said Stalin D, project director, Vanashakti. “Mining should have never been allowed in this crucial wildlife corridor.”

First Published: Dec 19, 2018 15:13 IST