State includes 2,092 villages in Western Ghats eco-sensitive areaUpdated: May 21, 2020 23:13 IST
The Maharashtra government on Thursday included more villages in its proposed final Western Ghats eco-sensitive area (ESA) notification, but has excluded previously identified villages falling in crucial wildlife corridors, sanctuary buffer areas and near tiger reserves.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray submitted the proposal for Maharashtra during a video-conference with Union minister for environment, forest and climate change Prakash Jawadekar on Thursday. “After the ESA for the Western Ghats is announced, curbs will be imposed on certain activities like hydropower projects, certain industries, mining, thermal power plants and large-scale constructions will be prohibited,” the CM’s Office tweeted.
On October 3, the Centre had proposed the draft ESA across 56,825 sq km spanning across six states, covering 37% of the Western Ghats. Of this, 17,340 sq km was marked in Maharashtra, covering 2,133 villages.
The state’s final proposal requests the Centre to include 2,092 of 2,133 villages or 15,359 sq km of the originally proposed 17,340 sq km, thereby excluding 11.4% of the draft ESA area, said state forest minister Sanjay Rathod.
“From 2,133 villages, we requested the exclusion of 388 that fall in areas with high industrial and mining potential. However, we also requested the Centre to add 347 more villages that are falling within and around wildlife sanctuaries or protected zones that need to be safeguarded, and were left out in the draft,” said Rathod.
“We requested the Centre to support all 2,092 villages with additional funds since development will be restricted after ESA declaration,” he added.
The minister said the Centre’s final nod was still awaited.
Thackeray said, “Our priority is the environment while achieving development. We want consistency to be maintained in the eco-sensitive zones in the area.”
The list of 388 villages, excluded from the original draft, was accessed by HT. The entire Dodamarg taluka was not considered for ESA declaration, nine out of 13 originally ESA villages in Sawantwadi and Banda talukas were excluded for mining potential.
Dodamarg-Sawantwadi belt forms a crucial elephant and tiger corridor in south Konkan. “This is in violation of a Bombay high court’s (HC) order to declare the entire corridor an ESA. The state is negotiating the safety of eco-fragile zones subverting orders of the judiciary,” said Stalin D, one of the petitioners in the matter.
Rathod said final decision on the Dodamarg-Sawantwadi belt will be reconsidered. “We are aware of the HC order and the matter will be placed before the CM for final decision,” he said.
Also, Savarde village in the core zone of Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur, Maloshi and Bamnoli villages in Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary in Satara, and Yelan Gai marked as mining village in the buffer area of the Sahayadri Tiger Reserve among others, were all excluded.
“This has remained a controversial issue ever since the 2011 Madhav Gadgil committee report. The state needs to ensure biodiversity is not compromised while finalising ESA boundaries,” said Kishor Rithe, former member of National Board for Wildlife.
WHAT IS AN ESA?
Declaring an area as ESA means putting restriction on mining, quarrying, thermal power plants, setting up of industries and construction to ensure buffer areas of a protected zone, in this case, the Western Ghats, remains protected.
(With inputs from Surendra Gangan)