South Konkan wildlife corridor declared eco-sensitive

South Konkan wildlife corridor declared eco-sensitive

In major triumph for eco-warriors, the Bombay High Court has declared the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg wildlife corridor, linking sanctuaries in Maharashtra-Goa and Karnataka, an ecologically sensitive area (ESA), ordering the Centre to submit a proposal in this regard.

The ruling has also put an end to the efforts of the influential mining lobby, which had been trying to clear as many as 40 proposals in the 35-km-long and 10-km-wide green ribbon.

A division bench of Justices Dhananjay Chandrachud and  Mahesh Sonak instructed secretaries from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the state environment ministry to prepare the proposal and declare the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg stretch, connecting Anshi Dandeli, Bhimgad and Radhanagari sanctuaries, eco-sensitive.

Late last week, in an affidavit submitted to the high court, the MoEF had stated that it was willing to consider a proposal to declare the corridor as an ESA, and also admitted that the state government, in its affidavit submitted last year, had candidly said:
“Considering the floral, faunal and ecological importance of the area, declaring it an ESA would benefit the protection and conservation of the ecosystem”. Talking to Deccan Herald, D Stalin of Vanashakti, a non-governmental organisation, said that as the state and central ministries had acquiesced, the HC immediately ordered the state to declare the area eco-sensitive by next month, work out all modalities by year-end and file its report to the court at the next hearing, posted on January 17.

Stalin said the order has come as a boon “not just for the flora and fauna but also the people whose very existence was being threatened by the predatory mining lobby, which had dozens of open-cast mining projects waiting for a green signal from the political masters to destroy the green ribbon”.

Sandeep Sawant of Asniye village in Sawantwadi, who had been collecting and collating ground reports for the past two years, told Deccan Herald over the phone: “There are over 30 villages (in the region), and each gram sabha had passed a resolution despite intense political pressure. A public interest litigation was moved in 2011 through the Mumbai-based Awaaz Foundation.

“The mining lobby was trying to destroy the belt, housing over 303 plant species, including medicinal herbs, and wildlife ranging from Asiatic elephant, Bengal tiger, leopard, black bear, wild buffalo, Malabar squirrel, pangolin, king cobra and birds.”

“Earlier, the court had banned tree-felling after it was brought to its notice that over 1.8 lakh trees had been felled clandestinely over the past two years, and the MoEF reluctantly had to order a moratorium on all projects requiring environmental clearance,” he added.

Comments (+)