Timber mafia, fire denuding Sahyadri

     Timber mafia, fire denuding Sahyadri

26 May 2008

published by www.navhindtimes.com 

 India — Right under the nose of three state governments, one of the world´s richest bio-diversity hotspot is fearing to lose its glory to excessive deforestration.

Virdi village, a small hamlet in Maharashtra state, tucked on three state borders – Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka – is witnessing massive deforestation, which is hitting the bio-diversity in this area.

Environmentalists vouch for the sighting of striped tigers, leopards, sloth bear, gaur and other wildlife.

Goa´s state tree “Mhadad (terminillia grenalata)” is found in this stretch and is being robbed away by the timber lobby. Other tree species like kinnal (terminillia panigulata) are also facing the same wrath.

Sitting in an old house in Virdi village, which has a population of around 2,000, environmentalists have held several round of talks with the villagers on saving the forest. But political pressure from within and across the border is strong enough to suppress the movement, an environmentalist informed.

“The deforested area or patch of land is an important habitat of Gaur and the sloth bear. Their sightings have been common here besides being a vital habitat to scores of lesser-known forms,” state´s renowned environmentalist, Mr Nirmal Kulkarni stated. Mr Kulkarni confirmed presence of confirmed large cat movements in this area including striped tigers (panchera tigris).

The village was hit when a couple of years ago the Maharashtra government planned a dam. The work has begun on the dam. Trees are cut next to the village in the thick forest in the Karnataka jurisdiction. While Goa and Maharasthra are discussing the dam project planned downstream, there is no word about the denudation of forests.

“The area is near the famed Vazra Sakla falls and is also the catchment area for a stream that later joins the Valvanti river. This forest is also a catchment area for the Valvanti river and the new dam project by the Maharashtra government has been planned in the same area downstream,” explained Mr Kulkarni.

This youngster in his late 20s is silently working with like-minded people like Mr Rajendra Kerkar, a crusader against the Mhadei dam project. They have been trying a lot to save the forest. These mountains connect the forests of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka and are combined and knows as the Mhadei bioregion. “The stretch is known for reptilian diversity. One can get variety of snakes here,” said Mr Rajendra kerkar.

The Sahyadri hill, home for Malbar pride gliding frog, the only place in the entire world where it can be found, has already lost two acres of its forest to timber mafia and instances of forest fire.

While driving down the ghat road leading towards the Goa border, one can see a huge nude patch in the forest. Smoke emanating from the burnt trees from a distance portrayed a sad picture about the western ghat, which is having a tryst with the excessive greed of human beings and is struggling for almost for four decades now to retain its glory.

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