Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Sahyadri buffer not notified to protect political interests?
Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jul 25, 2012, 05.16AM IST NAGPUR: Notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves is mandatory as per the amended Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) of 2006, but even two years after Sahyadri in Western Maharashtra was declared a tiger reserve the state government is yet to notify its buffer. The state had notified Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR), along the crest of western ghats in Kolhapur wildlife division, on January 5, 2010. The STR consists of Chandoli National Park (317.67 sq km) and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary (423.55 sq km). Declaring a buffer zone is important, due to pressure from projects like mining, roads, resorts and wind mills that want environment clearance in the vicinity. Going against this principle, the state is trying to protect such projects, which have come up in a big way around Sahyadri, and hence delaying notification of buffer area. A Supreme Court bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla on Tuesday warned of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on states which fail to notify buffer zones around reserves. Chief wildlife warden SWH Naqvi said, "Plan to notify STR will be expedited; it is almost ready. We are waiting for National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) decision to clear rationalization of the boundary of Koyna sanctuary." However, as per minutes of the 25th NBWL meeting held on June 13, the board agreed to regularize over 1,000 land deals, besides 10 resorts and 215 windmills that have come up in the ecologically sensitive zone of STR. The NBWL has recommended exclusion of these projects from the buffer and rationalization of Koyna sanctuary on the grounds that Maharashtra will instead notify proposed sanctuaries like Rajmachi (122 sq km), Sudhagarh-Tamni (220.18 sq km), Tipagad (52.4 sq km), Isapur (121.55 sq km) and Kolamarka (187 sq km). Naqvi justified rationalizing of Koyna sanctuary, saying Sahyadri should not be a paper tiger reserve. However, rationalization of Koyna will be subject to a PIL filed by local NGO led by Nana Khamkar in Bombay High Court, and an application before the centrally empowered committee (CEC) regarding violation of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Forest Conservation Act 1980. Khamkar told TOI that attempts to delay Sahyadri buffer notification were made to clear controversial projects that had been allowed to come up near the tiger reserve bypassing forest and wildlife laws. He added that without taking the Centre's nod, state had announced the development of the New Mahabaleshwar hill station and included 14 Koyna villages in it. In a few years, most of the land in the villages has been sold illegally. Member of state's buffer zone committee Kishor Rithe admits it is essential to notify buffer of any tiger reserve. In case of Sahyadri, since final notification and denotification of Koyna sanctuary is in process, the delay in buffer is considerable. "Hope the government will do it soon, once sanctuary final notification and critical tiger habitat (CTH) renotification is settled," Rithe added. The apex court had twice - on April 4 and July 10 - asked the state to notify buffer of Sahyadri but state failed to comply. If the state fails to comply within three weeks, it shall be saddled with a cost of Rs50,000, recoverable from principal secretary (forest) of the state concerned. The court also imposed a cost of Rs10,000 each on Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand for not complying with its orders. Forest secretary Praveen Pardeshi did not reply to a query sent to him. Rationalizing Koyna Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary was notified on September 16, 1985, under section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The notified area of the sanctuary is 423.55 sq km, which includes 229.45 sq km forest area and 198.02 sq km non-forest area. The enquiry officer appointed under WPA 1972 for the enquiry into Koyna had conducted enquiries between 1995-1998 under sections 19 to 25 of the said act and submitted their reports to the district collector. The enquiry officer and subdivisional officer, Karad, had passed orders for exclusion of non-forest area of 14 villages of Patan taluka of Koyna sanctuary, admeasuring 99.65 sq km. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Sahyadri-buffer-not-notified-to-protect-political-interests/articleshow/15134253.cms