Maharashtra is set to get its sixth tiger reserve with the state wildlife board deciding to make the Bor Wildlife Sanctuary a tiger reserve, increasing the tiger habitat by 530 sq km. Four new wildlife sanctuaries of Umred-Karandla, new Nagzira, new Bor and new Navegaon were also created by the state Wildlife Board, which held its first meeting since its reconstitution, on Thursday.
“We approved the proposal to create a new tiger reserve and also decided to make provisions for a GIB (Great Indian Bustard) breeding centre in the state,” said Sarjan Bhagat, principal chief conservator of forests, wildlife.
The state will set aside a three-kilometre area for captive breeding of the Great Indian Bustard at Nanaj GIB sanctuary in Solapur, for which Rs 20 crore will be used for a period of 10 years. This proposal will be sent to the Centre for approval on the condition that the government of Rajasthan, which has the highest population of GIBs, provides eggs or chicks for the conservation programme. The GIB sanctuary will be reduced from 1229 sq km to 366 sq km, eliminating areas that earlier included villages. The forest department has to notify an equivalent area from the state.
In a major boost for wildlife that used to be affected by irrigation projects, it was decided that for all major on-going irrigation projects, including the Gosikhurd irrigation project in Vidarbha , the irrigation department will have to set aside Rs 110 crore for mitigation measures. “Most of the canals cross through corridors used by wildlife and hamper their movement, so this money will be used to build overpasses to allow wildlife to cross as well as for catchment area treatment,” said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary of Revenue and Forests department. A small percentage of water released from dams will be set aside for use by wildlife.
Most public utility projects outside sanctuary boundaries were approved by the board. Nardave irrigation project, National Highway from Solapur to Hyderabad, Bijapur and Nagpur were approved. Projects that are close to the Karnala Wildlife Sanctuary such as the four-lane widening of NH17 and a 30-km underground gas pipeline from Mumbai to Pune were also approved, besides the underground pipeline that will provide water to Manpada adivasis living inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
“The CM said we have to sacrifice economic gain for ecological security. We tried to achieve a balance and approved most public utility projects that were outside sanctuaries,” Pardeshi added.
Meanwhile, the board rejected Unitech’s proposal to build a cement factory in the eco-sensitive zone of SGNP and a manganese mining project that was to come up close to Pench Tiger Reserve in Nagpur.