Mumbai activist reports illegal work at Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary | Bombay News


A city environmentalist wrote to the Maharashtra Forest Department, reporting illegal construction work currently underway at the Tungareshvara Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS), allegedly to expand and rebuild the Sadanand Ashram, which was demolished in August 2019 for violating the 1980 Forest Conservation Act. , and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

Following a long legal battle that lasted more than a decade, the Supreme Court in May 2019 ordered the state government to evict the ashram, which at the time occupied more than half a -hectare (ha) of the protected area. The Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) filed in July 2004 with the courts for eviction from the encroachment.

Debi Goenka, BEAG member and executive director of the nonprofit Conservation Action Trust (CAT), wrote on Sunday to Nitin Kakodkar, chief wildlife guardian, Maharashtra; Sunil Limaye, other Senior Chief Forestry Officer (APCCF), Wildlife, Mumbai; and G Mallikarjuna, Field Director and Chief Conservator of Forests, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).

“I visited TWLS on June 26th. I was shocked to find that the road from Parol to Sadanand Baba Ashram is still used by vehicles carrying devotees to the ashram. It is also evident that the road is maintained to facilitate the passage of these vehicles, ”Goenka said, noting that the Parol Chowky entry register is not maintained diligently.

“This is obvious because none of the vehicles I saw yesterday had been recorded in the register,” he wrote. In addition, it is alleged that two hangars in the ashram premises were built some time after the demolition.

“As I did not enter the ashram premises, I am unable to comment on any other work that may have been carried out on the premises,” Goenka’s letter read.

In a press statement on Monday, Goenka wrote: “It appears that Sadanand baba ashram is slowly being allowed to rebuild and resume all the activities it was carrying out before the demolition.

In response, environmentalists demanded that the newly built structures be quickly demolished and that the entry of Parol Chowky’s vehicles be stopped. Goenka also asked if a CCTV camera would be installed at the chowky, which is expected to be manned by uniformed forest rangers, in addition to the regular patrols of rangelands officers (RFO), deputy conservator of forests (ACF), deputy curator of forests. forests (DCF) and other senior officials.

In a message to HT on Monday, Mallikarjuna said: “Our officials, including the district forestry office, ACF and RFO will visit the site. If any encroachment occurred, the same would be demolished. “

Balayogi Shree Sadan and Maharaj’s ashram had occupied forest land in the 1970s, before the area was declared a protected sanctuary. Forestry officials and environmentalists have pointed out that the structure continued to grow, encroaching on the surrounding forest even after it was declared a protected area in 2003.

Tungareshvara, with an area of ​​approximately 85.70 km2, is connected to other protected natural areas like the Nagla block of the SGNP and the Tansa wildlife sanctuary.

The sanctuary’s diverse habitats, including coastal forests and hills, are home to leopards, wild boars, barking deer, langurs, bonnet and rhesus macaques, among other animals.

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