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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Mumbai Illegal mining in Rekhuri posing threat to endangered Great Indian Bustard

Mumbai: Illegal mining in Rekhuri posing threat to endangered Great Indian Bustard

Updated on: 22 January,2024 01:43 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ranjeet Jadhav | ranjeet.jadhav@mid-day.com

Reports suggest that officials are turning blind eye about protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Great Indian bustard

Mumbai: Illegal mining in Rekhuri posing threat to endangered Great Indian Bustard

The illegal mining which is taking place in Rehkuri sanctuary in Karjat district

Conservation of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) and its habitat faces challenges, with reports indicating a lack of concern from certain officials. In the Rehkuri sanctuary in the Karjat district of Ahmednagar, illegal stone mining took place in an Eco-sensitive zone from 2018-2022, violating all norms of a judgment given by the Supreme Court of India. In July 2023, Principal Chief Conservative Forest (PCCF) Wildlife - Maharashtra asked the Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) Nashik to send a charge sheet against all guilty Deputy conservators of Forest, Ahmednagar, but no action has been taken to date. In December 2023, the PCCF Wildlife was again directed to send a charge sheet against the guilty deputy conservator of a forest (DCF) officer, but no action was initiated.


Highly placed sources said that these guilty officials were allegedly given good postings even though they were found guilty in various inquiries because they had blessings from a high-ranking official in Mantralaya. Sources also said that the Forest minister is unaware of these inquiries and their outcomes, and a high-ranking official in Mantralaya is trying to save guilty officers. Sources said that stone mining continues in the area, highlighting ongoing environmental concerns.


The illegal mining which is taking place in Rehkuri sanctuary in Karjat district


Effort to protect the GIB

The Government of Maharashtra declared a GIB Sanctuary in 1979 with the sole objective of conserving the rarest endangered species of GIB. The Sanctuary consists of the area of North Solapur, Madha, Mohol and Karmala Talukas of Solapur District and Karjat, Shrigonda and Newasa Talukas of Ahmednagar District, covering a total area of 8496.44 sq. km. This bird has been included in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Act 1972 and accordingly, due protection has been given to this bird. The headquarters of the Sanctuary are Nannaj of Solapur District and Rehekuri of Ahmednagar District.

MLA and former minister Ram Shinde raised the Legislative Assembly Question (LAQ) in 2022. Earlier, MP Loksabha Sujay Vikhe had also complained in writing to DCF Ahmadnagar on May 4, 2022, but despite this, mining continued until it was forced to close down in December 2022.

It is alleged that the then Deputy conservator of forest in Ahmednagar issued a blatant NOC to start illegal mining in an Eco-sensitive Zone, violating all the norms of the Supreme Court of India’s judgment.

Worrying trends

A complaint was filed, followed by an investigation; some revenue and forest department officials were found guilty in the inquiry conducted by the Chief Conservator of Forest Nashik and the Divisional Commissioner Nashik separately.

The Divisional Commissioner conducted an inquiry and submitted a report to the government (Revenue Department) on March 2, 2023, which was accepted.

To investigate the matter, the Forest Department formed a committee to inquire about mining and submitted the report on December 15, 2022. This report has also been accepted by the government (Forest Department). Similar incidents occurred in the past, reflecting a concerning trend.

PCCF- Wildlife Maharashtra had written a strongly worded letter to the Chief Conservator of Forest (Territorial) Nashik on December 21, 2023. In the letter, the PCCF Mahip Gupta discussed the inquiry and stated, “A comprehensive proposal to take disciplinary action against the officers (forest officials) who are found guilty in the present case should be submitted to this office at once.”

The letter also states that despite the directive, no proposal has been received by this office (PCCF) even after a period of more than four months. “However, in accordance with the above instructions, a comprehensive proposal to take disciplinary action against the officers who are found guilty in the said case should be submitted to this office immediately.”

July 2023
Month PCCF Wildlife ordered charge sheet against officials

What do officials have to say?

Forest secretary B Venugopal Reddy did not reply to messages. Rishikesh Ranjan, chief conservator of forest (territorial), Nashik, said, “The commissioner has held DCF guilty for not filing the complaint in the court in consultation with the collector, as they are authorised by the Environment Protection Act and subsequent notifications.” Asked why compliance was not done and why the  CCF Nashik office is deciding when the senior office has directed to charge sheet them, he did not respond.

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