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Activists and Environmentalists Join Hands to Save Sahyadri From Further Onslaught

Flooding on both sides of the Sahyadri mountain caused destruction of properties and affected lakhs of lives.

Image Source: Wildlife Conversation.

More than 200 lives were lost in Maharashtra because of landslides and floods a fortnight ago. More than 2 lakh people were shifted from their residences to safer places. Government estimate of losses runs into 15 thousand crores. If one looks at the most affected areas of the state, they will find out that these are regions on both sides of the Sahyadri mountain, which is famously known as Western Ghats. Sahyadri is the common natural wall between Kolhapur, Pune, Satara, Sangalin Western Maharashtra, and Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Thane and Palghar in Konkan region, and it is now crumbling.

"We must challenge the current model of development. It is attacking Sahyadri range like more than ever, through iron ore minings in Kolhapur and Sindhudurg district and so-called tourism and resort developments in deep forests in Raigad, Satara, Palghar districts. This must be stopped if we really want to save the future from these calamities like landslides and floods," said Sanjay MG, a senior social activist from Thane.

During the UPA 2 regime, renowned environmentalist Madhav Gadgil had presented a detailed report about the conservation of nature in Western Ghats. In this report, Gadgil had alerted the state as well as the Union government to stop the cutting of trees, even for so-called development projects. "We all know that the Madhav Gadgil report was put in cold storage to serve the interests of some industrialists. Gadgil committee has called Konkan eco sensitive zone. But subsequent governments ignored the alert from the report. Today, within ten years of this report, both Konkan and Western Maharashtra regions are facing a serious crisis," social activist Ulka Mahajan told NewsClick.

Now, to make people aware about the alarming situation, start a movement, and push governments to change the direction of development, many like-minded people, social activists, and environmentalists have joined hands. "This is the time to go for mass movements. Eight industrious districts are affected. Floods have become normal every year. So, we are appealing to people to come together under one single banner," said Suniti Su Ra, an environmentalist.

Many activists and experts believe that there should be an extensive report of losses and thus that report should be prepared by environmentalists. "This would be the start. With proper reporting, we can make the masses aware. It could tell people what is exactly going wrong and why it needs to be changed," said Rajan Indulkar, a social activist from Chiplun, a city in Ratnagiri which was completely under water for ten hours.

There are multiple forums working in the Konkan region, mainly for conservation of nature, like the Konkan Paryavaran Bachao Samiti against mining, and the Nanar anti-refinery committee. Sanjay MG and Suniti Su Ra have started contacting all these forums to join hands. Also, environment expert and senior journalist Atul Deulgaonkar, water bodies expert Pradeep Purandare and others have also been called to join the forum and start preparing a fact-finding report of loss.

"We are planning to come up with a report within three months. It could help us to get an exact and scientific idea of what has gone wrong. So that it will be easy to take facts to the people," said Sanjay MG.

Maharashtra saw devastating flood in 2019, Tauktae cyclone in 2020, Nisarga cyclone in 2021, floods in Konkan as well as Western Maharashtra in 2021and also landslides during monsoon in almost every district since 2016. On Tuesday, Maharashtra government announced a Rs 11,500 crore relief package for the flood affected people for the year 2021.

This clearly shows that the losses are heavy and continuous. To avoid these losses, the model of development needs to be reconsidered. With this attempt by activists and environmentalists, one could only hope that the governments would stop turning a blind eye to the situation.

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