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Take action against mining units without clearances on Western Ghats, Centre tells Maharashtra

Central government says five units functioning sans wildlife clearances; some even since 1994

mumbai Updated: Feb 10, 2018 12:09 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,wildlife,Mining
Illegal mining has adverse environmental effects like loss of forest cover, habitat and biodiversity of an area and soil erosion.(HT File)

The standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) under the Union environment ministry has directed the Maharashtra government to act against five mining units that have been operating illegally along the Western Ghats.

Located in close proximity to the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary and the Chandoli National Park in Kolhapur district, the mining units have failed to obtain wildlife clearances from the NBWL. Some of the units have been functioning since 1994, read the minutes of the 47th meeting held on January 25, which was released by the NBWL on Wednesday, and attended by Union environment minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.

HT had reported on January 15 that Maharashtra recorded 1,39,706 illegal mining cases from 2013 to 2017, the highest recorded by any state in the country over the five-year period and highest each year. This was revealed by data submitted by the Union environment ministry in the Rajya Sabha. The environmental impact of illegal mining includes loss of forest cover, habitat and biodiversity of an area, soil erosion, groundwater contamination and permanent destruction of hilly areas, said geologists.

Based on a petition filed in the Supreme Court in 2015 regarding permissions to set up mines in different parts of the country considering impacts on wildlife, and orders passed by the apex court in April and September 2016, proposals for all such cases were directed to the NBWL standing committee for approval. One such proposal by Punthembikar Minerals included the clearance for a bauxite mining lease across an area of 206.37 ha across villages Talagaon and Baveli in Kolhapur district, which was first heard by the NBWL in May last year.

In August last year, the NBWL standing committee directed the formationof a team under the chairmanship of the secretary, ministry of environment forests and climate change (MoEFCC) to visit the site and submit an inspection report.

“The committee report has mentioned that at Durgmanwadi located adjoining the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary; bauxite mining has been in operation by Hindalco Industries since 1994. The said unit has been operating without obtaining wildlife clearance from the NBWL. Another unit of Hindalco Industries located in village Dhangarwadi, mines of Bhartesh Constructions Co., located in Sahuwadi, Shivram Minerals located in Shahuwadi and Pandirao Mines and Minerals have been operating in the landscape at different distances from the connecting corridor between Chandoli National Park and Radhanagari Sanctuary without obtaining wildlife clearance from NBWL,” read the minutes of the meeting. “The standing committee has asked the state government of Maharashtra to initiate immediate action against the mining units operating without obtaining the wildlife clearance from the NBWL.”

The standing committee, however, approved the proposal by Punthembikar Minerals during the January 25 meeting as it is located 5.88 km away from the edge of the wildlife corridor. However, the same proposal was rejected by the Maharashtra state wildlife board on January 31 citing threat to wildlife around protected forest areas.

Officials from the state environment department said they had directed the forest department to ensure that the Centre’s decision was followed. Officials from the forest department said they had not received the minutes so far. “Once we get it, suitable action will be taken regarding these violations,” said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forest (Mantralaya), state forest department.

First Published: Feb 10, 2018 12:09 IST