Goa decides to denotify sanctuaries

| 09 August 2001 22:46 IST

Criticising former governor for taking a 'hasty anti-people decision' during the President's Rule imposed by the central Bharatiya Janata Party government two years ago, the local BJP government has decided to de-notify two wild life sanctuaries in Goa.

Fearing increasing ecological destruction due to both legal and illegal commercial activities in the forest belt of Sahyadri range here, the environmentalists had managed to get this area notified during the President's Rule in June 1999.

To denotify, the state has to now approach the Supreme Court with its cabinet proposal as the apex court is presently seized of all such matters.

"Governor cannot take such policy decision of far-reaching implications", argues chief minister Manohar Parrikar, stating that Lt Gen (Retd) J F R Jacob was running a caretaker government, without facing the voters.

Though public protests have sprung up to denotify both the sanctuaries since both Mhadei and Netrawali sanctuaries include habitats, environmentalists allege that these protests are sponsored by vested interests like mine owners and timber lobby.

Parrikar also does not deny that some may gain indirect benefit out of it, but claims that the BJP is more worried about the habitation. Environmentalists however suggest enforcement of section 24 (2)c of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which allows their rights sustainable while following a participatory model of conservation by involving the locals.

Both the sanctuaries, which bring 20 per cent of state's geographical area under sanctuaries, also consist of 43 villages comprising population of over 16,000. Out of the 319 sq kms of area which the state plans to denotify, the habitation covers roughly 170 sq kms.

"We will give an undertaking to the court to re-notify the non-habitant area as the wild life sanctuary", states Parrikar. After getting it denotified, he plans to conduct a thorough survey and separate habitation from forest.

The cabinet has also not touched the area of around 100 sq kms which is being confirmed as wild life sanctuary by invoking section 26 A. The only area which is notified under section 18, expressing intention, has been proposed to be denotified.

Almost all the political parties are under constant pressure here due to stringent forest acts which do not allow any kind of development in the forest belt. In fact the state is fighting with the central ministry for environment and forests even to construct a water storage tank to implement its water supply scheme.

Though the state has announced big plans to divert its focus from beach tourism to eco-tourism, Parrikar admits that no activity in this forest belt could be carried out except organising safari trips for the tourists.

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