Centre asked to declare stand on Western Ghats panel report
Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today asked the Union Government to take a final decision on the report submitted by Western Ghats ecology expert panel headed by Dr Madhav Gadgil.
Justice D D Sinha and Justice V K Tahilramani directed the Centre to file an affidavit within three weeks declaring its stand on recommendations made by the panel on conserving and preserving ecologically sensitive areas within the Sahyadri range.
On the last occasion, judges had expressed displeasure to find that the central government lawyer had no specific instructions about the action to be taken on the panel report, although the Maharashtra government has already forwarded its views to the Centre way back in January 25, 2012.
The court is hearing a petition filed by Awaaz Foundation, a city-based NGO actively engaged in protecting environment.
The NGO has sought directions to the Centre to declare the Sawantwadi-Doddamarg wildlife corridor in Sindhudurg district because of apprehensions of rapid degradation of significant bio-diversity reserves within the corridor.
According to the NGO, the corridor has 303 species of plants, shrubs and trees, several with crucial medicinal values, 18 species of wildlife, including Bengal tiger, leopards, black bear, wild buffaloes and 13 species of birds.
Besides, the 35-square kilometre stretch facilitates movement of wild animals such as Asiatic elephant, as well as extremely endangered species of tiger between Koyna and Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuaries and Chandoli National Park.
The NGO has sought inclusion of the corridor in ecologically sensitive areas on the basis of various studies conducted by volunteer groups concluding that the area was ecologically sensitive and therefore required to be protected.
It argued that if developmental activities like mining were allowed, the important wildlife corridor will be destroyed.
The NGO has alleged that during last two years more than 18 lakh trees have been destroyed or felled in Doddamarg forest circle alone for facilitating mining activities and therefore sought restraint on the bauxite and iron ore mining in the area.
While hearing the petition, in April this year, the state government had assured the court that no new mining leases would be granted in the ecologically sensitive area until a final decision was taken on the recommendations made by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel.