Panaji, July 17 The Bombay High Court bench in Goa on Friday issued notices to several state and Central government wildlife and environment agencies over three proposed central projects in the pristine Western Ghats spread over nearly 170 hectares of forest cover.
The notices were issued by Justice M.S. Sonak and Justice M.S. Jawalkar, following a petition filed by Goa Foundation, a local green NGO which has cited procedural lapses in the approvals given by the Union Ministry of Environment Forests and its agencies to three Central government projects related to national highway expansion, double tracking of the South Western Railway tracks and drawing of a power line through the forested areas of the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park, both contiguous forests zones in South Goa.
The notices have been issued to state government agencies namely Chief Wildlife Warden, Goa State Wildlife Board, Chief Secretary and Central government bodies like the National Board for Wildlife, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, National Tiger Conservation Authority, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Railways, etc.
In its petition, the Goa Foundation has said that the approvals given to the three projects are in violation of the mandate given by Article 48A of the Constitution and the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and contradict public policy and the recommendations of the National Board of Wildlife.
"The approvals have been granted without proper consideration and examination of the proposals and studies submitted. The environmental impact assessments of the projects, wherever done, have been shoddily carried out, with little or no proper evaluation on the impact on the wildlife habitat, including its biodiversity," the petition alleged.
"No cumulative impact assessment of the three projects collectively has been carried out... The mandatory prior approval of the National Tiger Conservation Authority has not been obtained," it also adds.
The next hearing is scheduled to be held on July 24.
Nearly 50,000 trees located in the Western Ghat region of Goa are slotted for felling for multiple central government projects which include expansion of railway lines and highways and drawing of a new high tension power, spread across the two wildlife reserves, which are two of the biggest protected forests in the state. The projects have already been cleared by the National Wildlife Board for Wildlife in April this year.
Tourism industry stakeholders as well as activists and opposition political parties have opposed the three projections claiming it would not only have adverse environmental impact on the state, but would also affect eco-tourism activities in Goa.
( With inputs from IANS )