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Move to mark 4 Maharashtra villages ‘eco-sensitive’ leaves 15,000 jobless

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on September 16, 2020 Published on September 16, 2020

Notwithstanding the series of Covid-related job losses, the Maharashtra government has rendered over 10,000 adivasi villagers and about 5,000 migrant labours jobless by including four villages under the Tungareshwar Wild Life Sanctuary’s eco-sensitive zone.

The stone-crushing units and brick kilns at Paye, Payegaon, Brahmangaon and Khardi villages were shut last November after they were notified under the eco-senstive zone without following mandatory procedures, including a public hearing.

Following the development, an investment of ₹190 crore in brick-making and stone crushing units and bank loans of about ₹100 crore are on verge of going down the drain.

Unjustified move

Kantilal Ganpat Devlikar, President, Paye Brahmangaon Mining and Stone Crushers Owners Association, said that a majority of the villagers are adivasis and have no other source of income, not even farming, due to the rocky terrain of these villages. Locals were dependant on businesses such as stone crushing, quarrying, transportation, brick manufacturing, machinery hiring and hotels for serving food to migrant labours.

The four villages had never been part of any forest and has existed for decades; the adjoining small patch (presented as existing a forest) is actually not a forest and is a rocky area, he said.

There have never been any wandering or sightings of any wild animals in the past 20 years in these areas due to the dense human population, added Devlikar.

No public hearings

The government had issued a gazette for Tungareshwar Wild Life Sanctuary in December 2018, and was met by protests by gram panchayats, local MPs and MLAs as it was done without any public hearing.

During the 34th Expert Committee Meeting last March, the Maharashtra government had given directions to exclude the four villages from the eco-sensitive zone, but the Committee gave no response.

Last July, the Committee declined the Maharashtra government’s request and finalised the gazette. The collector served a stop work notice to the crushers and brick kilns last october.

Sanjay M Shah, Secretary, Paye Brahmangaon Mining and Stone Crushers Owners Association, said about 381 hectares of private land were forced into the eco-sensitive zone with neither public hearing nor prior information and study on wildlife.

The Association has approached many times to the Maharashtra Government and Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, but has met with no response, he added.

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Published on September 16, 2020
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