Up in arms against the proposal of local district authorities to earmark only a 100-metre area in the periphery of Lonar lake in Buldhana district as eco-sensitive, biodiversity activists have written to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change demanding that the sensitive zone be extended to at least 500 metres.
In response to an MoEF notification issued on November 20, 2015, the Buldhana local body sent a proposal stating that the eco-sensitive zone is spread to the extent of 100 metres around the boundary of the Lonar crater and a zonal plan is being prepared in order to conserve the crater abiding by the guidelines of eco-sensitive zones.
However, environmental scientists have alleged that local politicians and vested interests have influenced the local body in reducing the sensitive zone periphery to 100 metres. Members of city-based Centre for Citizen Science (CCS) which has been studying the Lonar crater for over a decade, has written to MoEF stating that marking the zone at least 500 metres beyond the ejecta would help avoid construction activity closer to the crater.
A crater formed due to meteoritic impact more than 50,000 years ago in basaltic rock, the Lonar lake is a unique site full of microbial life of rare types of bacteria and algae among others. For years, the international scientific community has veen visiting this site for studying geology.
Speaking about their objections, Mayuresh Prabhune, secretary, CCS, said that marking the eco-sensitive zone in such a small circumference would damage the crater’s bio-diversity. Stating that they have already discussed this issue with MoEF, Prabhune said that the ministry needs to bring in bio-diversity experts to decide on marking the eco-sensitive zone rather than entrusting it to the local adminsitration.
“Our first appeal to them is that the eco-sensitive zone be marked one kilometre beyond the ejecta of the crater and also while preparing the development plan, experts from all related fields right from geology to heritage, be taken into confidence,” Prabhune said.
Founder of Lonar Mitra Mandal, Sudhakar Bugdane, said that the crater is already facing serious threat for the last few decades due to several illegal constructions in its vicinity and habitation besides sewage and roads. “Commercial activities have already damaged the natural topography to a great extent. If the proposal is implemented, it will destroy the crater,” he said.
While members of the Buldhana district local body could not be contacted, local Range Forest Officer of Lonar Park, DP Chavan, said that he wasn’t aware of the proposal sent by the local district administration. “I heard from someone yesterday that such a proposal is being considered but we are only concerned with its implementation. However, today’s situation is that there are houses right up to the edge of the periphery and not even a radius of 10 metre is under protection,” he said.