State to Declare 11 New Conservation Reserves In Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra

State to Declare 11 New Conservation Reserves In Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra

The Maharashtra Forest Department has pitched the idea of declaring 11 conservation reserves in Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra. Further, the forest department has also reportedly requested the allocation of Rs 20 crores per year for conservation and management of the reserves. 

A final call on these proposals will be taken on Friday by the State Board of Wildlife (SWL), which is headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. As for the 11 conservation reserves proposed by the forest department, five happen to be in Kolhapur, one in Sindhudurg, and two are at Satara. Meanwhile, two of the proposed sites are in Nagpur while one is in Amravati. Meanwhile, the total area of the protected areas will come up to around 1,076.19 sq. km. 

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Nitin Kakodkar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Maharashtra, said - “We are going one step further from them just having reserved forest status. The idea is to protect them under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972, by declaring them as CRs. Any development projects proposed within these CRs will need clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 190, the SBWL and the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). To that extent, there will be control on developmental projects in these areas.”

Conservation reserves (CRs) are buffer zones between wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and reserved forests while also acting as migratory corridors for the animals. As per the law, any agricultural or developmental activity in such regions must have the approval from the State and Central wildlife boards. 

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However, some have doubted the state’s intention behind declaring areas as CRs instead of sanctuaries or national parks. Kishor Rithe, a non-government member of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) said - “The department feels they can avoid headaches by issuing CR notification. Officers do not want to get involved in the tedious legal processes under WPA, and hear villagers’ problems. By doing so they deprive villagers of their rights and resettlement and ex-gratia packages from the state.”

Kakodkar has clarified that the declaration of an area as a conservation reserve is only the first step. “It does not make sense to notify only the reserved forest as sanctuaries unless non-forest areas are also taken up and there, the settlement procedure has to be followed, which takes much longer to provide protection”, he said. 

He added that the recent spike in leopard deaths and poaching will also be discussed at the SBWL meeting. 

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