Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, while presiding over a meeting of the 29-member State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), on Friday approved a proposal to declare the 2,011 sq km Angria Bank as a protected area. The proposal will now be sent to the Centre for its approval.
The proposal sought to declare Angria Bank – a submerged plateau 120 km off the coast of Malvan – as a “designated area” under the Maritime Zones Act, 1976. If approved by the Centre, it will be the first such marine protected zone in India located in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Other proposals approved by the board, which met after two years, included declaration of Sonneratia Alba as the state mangrove tree and a recovery programme for Arabian Sea Humpback Whale. While Maharashtra became the first state in the country to declare a state mangrove tree, it will have to wait for the Centre’s nod to make the recovery programme a reality.
Uddhav, meanwhile, said that from now on, development projects will be approved only after conducting drone surveys and receiving environment impact assessment reports.
The Wildlife Institute of India had identified Angria Bank as one of India’s 106 important coastal and marine biodiversity areas. The proposed area is approximately 61 km in length and around 50 km in width.
According to a study, Angria Bank is home to rich marine biodiversity, including species found under schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The protected status will restrict threats such as overfishing; oil, natural gas and mineral exploration; as well as protect coral, algal and other marine diversity.
Sonneratia Alba, one of the important evergreen mangrove tree species that can be found in coastal districts, is known as ‘White Chippi’ in local parlance as it bears white flowers. The research programme to rehabilitate Arabian Sea Humpback whales, if approved, will be conducted over five years – beginning November 2020 – at a budget of Rs 6.12 crore.
Uddhav also directed to set up a study group or committee to reduce human-tiger conflict in Chandrapur city. Of the 160 tigers found in the district, 20 can be found within a 5-m radius of the city.
One of the proposals on the agenda that was not approved was the renewal of the lease for bauxite mining in Minchebudruk village of Kolhapur. The mining site falls next to Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary. “The CM expressed his displeasure over such and dismissed it,” said a board member.
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