Maharashtra declares Tillari forest area in Sindhudurg as conservation reserve

Updated: Jun 25, 2020, 15:53 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

The area, comprising 10 villages, has rich biodiversity and breeding population of tigers, leopards, elephants and other wildlife species.

The Tillari ecosystem has breeding population of tigers, leopards, elephants and other wildlife species
The Tillari ecosystem has breeding population of tigers, leopards, elephants and other wildlife species

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday declared 29.53 square kilometre area in Dodamarg taluka of Sindhudurg district as Tillari conservation reserve. The area, comprising 10 villages, has rich biodiversity and breeding population of tigers, leopards, elephants and other wildlife species.

The decision has been welcomed by wildlife conservationists. Talking to mid-day, V Clement Ben, chief conservator of forest of Kolhapur, said, "This is great news for wildlife lovers and the ten villages of Dodamarg taluka as wildlife corridor is being protected and sustainable livelihood model for the villages will be ensured. Also, the ecotourism will find a fillip in the coming days. The Tilari ecosystem has breeding tiger population and acts as a source population for Sahyadri Tiger Reserve."

In November 2014, a rapid assessment of biodiversity was done in 25 villages of Sawantwadi-Dodamarg region by renowned researchers Varad Giri, Raman Kulkarni, Girish Arjun Punjabi, Farukh Mehtar, Dhananjay Joshi, Rohan Korgaonkar, Akshay Khandekar and Ninad Gosavi. They had submitted a report about their research to the forest department.

According to the report, “The 25 villages in Sawantwadi and Dodamarg tehsils comprise a mixed-use landscape, with naturally forested areas interspersed among private forests and horticultural plantations. The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra Government to forward a proposal based on ground-level information for declaration of Sawantwadi-Dodamarg region as an ecologically sensitive region. We conducted this survey on the request of Chief Conservator of Forests (Territorial), Kolhapur division, for ground-level information."

The survey recorded at least 19 species of mammals, 12 species of amphibians, 71 species of birds, 60 species of butterflies, 2 species of damselflies, 16 species of reptiles, 4 species of scorpions, 4 species of spiders and 5 species of other invertebrates for over six days.

Maharashtra's Minister for Tourism, Environment & Climate Change, Aaditya Thackeray, tweeted, “Today, the Government of Maharashtra declared the establishment of "Tillari Conservation Reserve today" in the Reserve Forest of the Forest Range of Dodamarg, Sawantwadi . The 29.53 Sq Km adds a small pug mark in the effort to protect wildlife, biodiversity and the tiger! I thank @CMOMaharashtra Uddhav Thackeray ji @OfficeofUT for his crucial push to this project. Also a big thank you to the Minister for Forest Sanjay Rathod ji. This area is home to the tiger, elephants, leopards and more! @UNEP @World_Wildlife @MahaForest @UNBiodiversity"

What experts say

Renowned Herpetologist and Researcher, Dr. Varad Giri, said, “This forest is a bottleneck between northern and middle Western Ghats. This decision will ensure that the Western Ghats is entirely accessible. Else, the northern Western Ghats would have been disconnected. This is a major decision.”

Stalin D from NGO Vanashakti said, “It is a welcome move and will help boost community participation to conserve wildlife habitats and the wildlife will get a breather.”

Wildlife Researcher Akshay Khandekar said, “It's a crucial decision taken by the Maharashtra government to save large mammals in the northern Western ghats as it is the only corridor that supports the movement of large mammals across the ghats. I would suggest that the government should also take suggestions from experts who have done extensive research in this area.”

Wildlife Conservationist Kedar Gore from NGO The Corbett Foundation said, "I appreciate this move by the Government to protect this high biodiversity area of Maharashtra. However, looking at Tillari's ecological importance and habitat connectivity with Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and the forests of Western Ghats in Goa and Karanataka, it should have been declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary instead of a Conservation Reserve. In the long-term, this increased protection for a much bigger area would be essential so that it supports viable tiger populations." 

Sumaira Abdulali, convener of Awaaz Foundation, said, "The Bombay High Court Order of September 2013 in Awaaz Foundation's PIL is clear that Sawantwadi Dodamarg is to be declared Environmentally Sensitive Area/Zone by the MoEF and only the modalities of declaration are left to be implemented.  No decision to notify the area as Community Reserve can be taken by the Government of Maharashtra which would be in contravention of the existing order. The Notification also leaves out many villages of Dodamarg which are included in Orders of the Court which are currently threatened by mining projects. However, the decision to recognize biodiversity and notify villages beyond the proposed ESA as a Community Reserve is welcome and I thank the Government of Maharashtra for protecting these biodiverse areas."

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