Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray sanctioned a water supply project passing through the Jaikwadi bird sanctuary to meet the demands of the Aurangabad city along with 12 conservation reserves and three wildlife sanctuaries.
The number of conservation reserves in the state will now total 27, up from the earlier 12, and wildlife sanctuaries will increase to 53 from 50. At a state wildlife board meeting in Mantralaya on Monday, Thackeray who had cracked the whip only a few days ago demanding a solution for Aurangabad’s water crisis, approved the proposal. Forest officials said the project will come up on two hectares of the bird sanctuary which is non-forest area. “It is a genuine need of the local populace and is a linear project. Hence, we approved the proposal. It will now go before the National Board for Wildlife for approval,” said V Ben Clement, additional principal chief conservator of forests, western wildlife region. Aurangabad Municipal Corporation goes to the polls later this year and the BJP has been aggressive on the issue, said political observers.
Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis led a protest march in Aurangabad last month over the water issue. On Wednesday, Thackeray will address a rally in Aurangabad. The approval to the water project will give the party a fillip as it goes to the polls. The MVA government during its tenure has sanctioned seven conservation reserves earlier and now has added 12 more to the list.
“There are four types of protected areas. The top-most being national parks followed by wildlife sanctuaries, then conservation reserves and finally community reserves. Conservation reserves are notified forests on government land. Declaring these notified forests as conservation reserves helps protect them better and makes it more difficult to dereserve these forests for other activities,” said Clement.
A significant proposal which has been approved, said experts, is the declaration of the extended Lonar wildlife sanctuary. This area is on the periphery of the Lonar lake in Buldhana district. This has been done to protect the rare rocks in the area. Lonar lake was created by a meteorite impact. “The area on the periphery is all private land and we have obtained consent from the local owners to acquire this land. Now we have to compensate them. Many of the rare rocks in the area have been taken away by people including foreigners and these need to be protected. The Wildlife Protection Act accords protection to the soil, microrganisms, plants, animals— everything within the protected area. This declaration will ensure that rocks are not taken out,” said Clement.