High court extends moratorium on mining in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts to Jan 31

Also orders Ministry of Environment and Forests to submit in court Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report

After enforcing a temporary halt on the mining projects in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts last month, the Bombay High Court has now extended the moratorium on these up to January 31. The high court also directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to submit the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report prepared by scientist and former chairman of WGEEP Dr Madhav Gadgil in the court before January 12. The court gave the direction after considering a petition filed by the Awaaz Foundation, an environmental group headed by Sumaira Abdulali.  

Stop that: Mining activity at Kalane in Sindhudurg district

Activists and representatives from the civic authority, who have been demanding the WGEEP report on the Western Ghats be made public, say the MoEF is not disclosing it and also not giving the reason for not doing so.

Eco-sensitive areas
The WGEEP was set up in March 2010 to assess the status of the ecosystem of the Western Ghats and to demarcate areas in the region to be notified as ecologically sensitive area (ESA), after which a report was prepared by the committee to study the ecological damage in the regions, which otherwise are green and provide shelter to wildlife.  

"The MoEF says that it will not reveal the committee report to the environmentalists but to the court, which is peculiar. In the meantime, since the moratorium has been extended, we'll study the interim report and prepare a final one," said Abdulali.

The foundation along with other activists in the petition has asked the court to declare the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg wildlife corridor in Sindhudurg district an ESA under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The corridor is part of the Sahyadri-Konkan wildlife corridor, connecting the Koyna and Radhanagari wildlife sanctuaries in the state with wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka, where a number of endangered species including the tiger and the giant Malabar squirrel can be found. 

MiD DAY had earlier reported the discovery of a highly endangered flying snake in the region as well as the threat faced by the giant Malabar squirrel, which is the state animal and is being threatened by the mining.

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