Mumbai, Jan 19 (IANS) A top Mumbai NGO Wednesday urged the central government to declare the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg area of Sindhudurg district of the Konkan region as Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and implement a zero mining policy.
In a memorandum to union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, Sumaira Ali, chief of the Awaaz Foundation, has said that the region is a bio-diversity hotspot and more than 80 percent of the villages in the area have already demanded ESA status through resolutions.
Sumaira pointed out that areas with considerably less bio-diversity like the hill-stations of Matheran, Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani and Dahanu have already been declared ESAs.
Though Jairam Ramesh's intervention has resulted in a stay on mining leases, Sumaira said that the region is under threat from over 30 mining leases.
'It is impossible to maintain the unique character and bio-diversity of this beautiful area if mining is permitted and no amount of mitigation measures can ensure protection,' she said.
Sumaira pointed out that the area is already under rapid degradation due to the mining activities, clearing of large tracts of forests for rubber plantations, threatening the rich flora and fauna.
Quoting official forest department figures, she said that over 1.8 million trees were chopped in the last two years in the Dodamarg circle.
This posed a serious threat to the Western Ghats, one of the bio-diversity hotspots of the world, which is home to 127 types of trees, 66 types of shrubs, 29 climbers, four bamboos, 15 grasses and 99 types of medicinal plants, besides rare and endangered species of birds, animals and reptiles.
'It would be heartbreaking to sit back and watch this bio-diversity hotspot, a precious natural heritage which needs to be protected and protected fast, endure irreparable damage,' Sumaira said, pleading for granting the ESA status.
Incidentally, Sindhudurg is adjacent to the Ratnagiri district where the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project is scheduled to come and which is facing stiff opposition from locals and environmentalists.