PUNE: The state government has objected to the recommendations made by the Western Ghat ecology expert panel on setting up windmills in ecologically sensitive areas.
Speaking at the first stakeholders workshop of the Maharashtra state biodiversity board held at Bharati Vidyapeeth Insititute of Environment Education and Research, on Saturday, principal secretary (forest) Pravinsinh Pardeshi said, “We have objected to the recommendations made in Gadgil’s report that windmills projects should undergo a comprehensive cumulative impact assessment before clearance. It is also recommended that a moratorium be placed on all wind energy farm proposals until comprehensive environmental impact assessment studies are conducted. It recommended that no windmills be allowed in ecologically sensitive zone 1 (regions of high sensitivity).”
Pardeshi pointed out that in the report 83 talukas have been assigned to ecologically sensitive zone 1, which includes 32 talukas in Maharashtra alone. “Thus, the highest number of ecologically sensitive zones are demarcated in Maharashtra where maximum windmills are located,” said Pardeshi. He refused to reveal other objections raised by the state government.
The report is now in public domain along with a disclaimer and the ministry has invited stakeholders to give their comments or views. The ministry of environment and forest has stated that the report has not been formally accepted by the ministry and it is still being analyzed and considered.
Chaired by noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil, the panel worked on demarcating ecologically sensitive areas for conservation and protection, and to make suggestions on development of mining, power plants and polluting industries in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. The ministry has invited comments and views from stakeholders on the report submitted by the panel in August 2011.
Speaking at the workshop, Patangrao Kadam state minister of forest said that Gadgil’s report was good but some changes were needed. It will also be seen that the report was translated in Marathi, which will lead to discussions and opinions from people as requested by Gadgil, he said. When asked by Gadgil if he has read the report, the minister said that he did not go through it.
Madhav Gadgil alleged that the report was suppressed by the government and a false propaganda is being spread against it. “We are not saying that the recommendations or suggestions made in the report have to be followed. We have not said that there should not be any hydro power or windmill projects. We have compiled the relevant information after site visits and after meeting the locals,” Gadgil said.
“We have pointed out forest clearance given by falsifying the facts. For example, the report says that there was no Indian giant squirrel in Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary. Whereas this sanctuary is home to this state animal. We have also raised objections to the shoddy roadwork done for access to windmills leading to landslide and blocking of streams. We are not objecting to green technology,” he said.
Gadgil said the report was relevant for biodiversity board and will lead to formation of biodiversity management committee. It has been 10 years but the Biological Diversity Act 2002 has not been im-plemented so far. “Under this Act, the biodiversity management committee should be formed at the local level. The committee has a role in decision making and charge fee on use of biological resources. Thus, if we have such a committee in Pune municipal corporation area, we can save the hills,” he said.
Erach Bharucha, chairman of the Maharashtra state biodiversity board, said the board will ensure that the Biological Diversity Act 2002 is implemented. The board has planned a series of workshops to come up with a strategic plan at the state-level for biodiversity conservation, especially outside the protected area network, he added.
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