The Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought to know from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Raigad district authorities whether vehicular restrictions in Matheran town can be relaxed to provide essential goods to the residents of the hill station during the lockdown.
The court was informed that as Matheran is an eco sensitive zone (ESZ), no vehicular movement beyond Dasturi Point was allowed, except for ambulances and vehicles of fire brigade and solid waste management. Advocate Gaurav Parkar told the court that even during normal conditions, vehicular traffic in Matheran was restricted and goods were transported into the town through hand-pulled horse carts. He added that since the lockdown was imposed, many of the handcart-pullers and horses that used to carry luggage have not been available. Residents, meanwhile, are buying essential items with inflated prices – they are being forced to pay Rs 250 extra per gas cylinder and Rs 10 to 15 per kg more for vegetables and fruits among others, he alleged.
Justice Suresh C Gupte was hearing a plea filed by Suresh Narayan Lad, a former member of the state Assembly, stating that nearly 4,500 residents of Matheran and around 25,000 from neighbouring villages, including tribals and cattle farmers, are dependent on the town for their livelihood and daily supply for essential items.
The lawyer argued that heavy vehicles, including trucks and tempos, were allowed during the landslide in 2005. He sought from the court directions to MoEF and the Raigad district collector to relax ESZ norms to enable small tempos and trucks to enter the town with essential commodities.
Lawyers for state and Union governments sought time to take instructions from concerned officials, following which, Justice Gupte directed the authorities posted the matter for hearing on May 12.
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