Centre lifts ban on mining, power projects in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg

Environment ministry decision is applicable only to talukas not falling in Western Ghats in the two Maharashtra districts, moratorium stays in Dodamarg taluka

 
By Soundaram Ramanathan
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Jindal power plant in Ratnagiri district is perceived as threat to alphonso mango orchards in the region

The Union environment ministry has partially lifted the moratorium on development projects in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of Maharashtra. This was in response to the state government’s request last October, urging the Centre to remove talukas not falling in Western Ghats from the list of ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) list.

Last October, the ministry had imposed a moratorium on environmental clearances of developmental projects, including power and mining, in five talukas of Ratnagiri—Khed, Chiplum, Sangameshwar, Lanja, Rajapur—and six talukas in Sindhudurg—Ankavali, Sawantwadi, Deodmag, Deogad, Vaibhavawadi, Kudal.

According to the newly released office memorandum   of the ministry on Friday, moratorium on new projects will continue only in those villages which were identified as eco-sensitive by the high level working group committee on Western Ghats, headed by N Kasturirangan,  and in the twenty five villages (in three talukas) of Sindhudurg, which are covered under PIL No. 179 of 2012 pending at the high court of Bombay. The PIL pending at the high court was filed by Awaz foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO, which pleaded with the court to declare Sawantwadi-Dodamarg Corridor, which is rich in iron ore and frequented by the tigers, an ecologically sensitive area. Though the government favoured declaring the zone eco-sensitive, 20 of the 25 villages in the corridor has passed resolutions opposing the ESZ tag as they consider it detrimental to their development. The decision in the case is pending in court.

Around 485 villages in Ratnagiri (293) and Sindhudurg (192) were declared as ecologically sensitive by the environment ministry, on the basis of reports of the panel on Western Ghats in March this year.  Any new mining project, thermal power plants, red category industries, new building projects (above 20,000 sq.m) were prohibited in these areas (see map ‘Boundary of western ghats eco sensitive zone’)

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