The Maharashtra government, on Thursday made a fresh appeal to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to classify 2,092 villages covering an area of 15,359.49 sq km as eco-sensitive area (ESA) in the final notification on Western Ghats. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in the video conference with Union Minister of Environment and Forest Prakash Javadekar assured that the government will follow strict norms of environment conservation in those villages where hydropower projects, thermal power projects and big construction projects will be banned.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government last year had urged the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to classify 2,092 villages as eco-sensitive, but it has not yet been done.
The ministry, in the draft notification issued on October 4, 2018, had proposed to declare 2,133 villages in Maharashtra as ESA, which has landscapes that have high biological richness, low fragmentation and low population density, and those that may comprise of protected areas, world heritage sites, and tiger and elephant corridors. However, the state government made a strong case to exclude 388 villages and urged the ministry to classify only 2,092 villages as eco-sensitive.
The area of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra to be declared protected will reduce from 17,340 sq km to 15,359.40 sq km if the central environment ministry approves the proposal.
Thackeray reiterated that once the 2092 villages are earmarked as ESA, all new ‘red’ category or highly polluting industries and the expansion of any existing industries will be prohibited there. He assured Javadekar that the state government will take due action to observe prohibitory orders.
State government sources told FPJ, “With the classification of 2,092 villages as ESA, there will be continuity in ESA in the area of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. This will not adversely impact industrial and urban development and also mining activity.”