STAFF REPORTER Mumbai
The Bombay High Court, on Monday, asked the Central government to expedite the decision on implementing a report submitted by the expert panel on Western Ghats ecology and come up with a specific date by which i
t will do so.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Awaaz Foundation, a city- based non- governmental organisation actively ( NGO) engaged in protecting environment.
The NGO has sought directions to the Centre to declare Sawantwadi in Sindhudurg district a wildlife corridor because of apprehensions of rapid degradation of significant bio- diversity reserves within the corridor.
The Western Ghats, which stretch from Maharashtra to Kerala along the coast, are one of the India top ten bio- diversity hotspots. This area, teeming with thousands of species, faces a threat from illegal mining and pollution from power plants and heavy industry.
The central government told the court that mining permission would not be given in the Western Ghat corridor till it decides on the expert report.
A division bench headed by Justice D D Sinha directed the Centre to get back with the specific date on when it would take a final decision on the recommendations made by the Madhav Gadgil Committee on conserving and preserving ecologically sensitive areas within the Sahyadhri range.
The central government will anyway have to inform the court on June 26.
The courts direction came after it was informed that the Maharashtra government had forwarded its views on the report to the union government in January itself.
According to the petition, the corridor has 303 species of plants, shrubs and trees- several with crucial medicinal values- 18 species of wildlife including the Bengal tiger, leopard, black bear and wild buffaloes, apart from 13 species of birds.
The 35- square kilometre stretch also facilitates movement of wild animals like Asiatic elephants, extremely endangered tigers between Koyna and Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuaries and Chandoli National Park.
The state government had in April assured the court that no new mining leases would be granted in the ecologically sensitive area until final decision was taken on the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report.
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