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Mahabaleshwar - Truly Eco-Sensitive

Feb 5, 2008
Strawberry fields, picturesque landscapes, horses and Environmental hazards.That's right , according to a notification from 2001 the Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani regions have been declared as eco sensitive regions in regard with Environment Protection Act 1986.The Government has decided to overlook all the activities taking place in the forests, sanctuaries and national parks according to the Conservation and Protection Acts.

A zonal master plan has been created by the State Government with the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests which was published under a procedure prescribed by the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1966 which indicates the limited areas where industries can be permitted. It also defines the existing forests, green areas, horticultural areas such as strawberry farms, raspberry farms, orchards, tribal areas, and other environmentally sensitive areas.

For the areas outside and within the municipal locality of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, a Sub Zonal Master Plan has been created which specifies that there will be no increase in the existing permissible Floor Area Ratio, permissible height, permissible maximum number of storey and permissible ground coverage; and there shall also be no reduction in the Forest Zone/Green Zone/Agricultural Zone.

It also defines the designated industrial areas as per the guidelines drawn up by the Government of Maharashtra.It also indicates that in the future only non polluting non hazardous service industries, units making footwear from processed and ready made leather, floriculture, horticulture based or agro based industries producing products from indigenous goods from the Eco Sensitive Zone shall be permitted in this zone.

This plan also states the restriction of any hazardous activity which includes Quarrying, Mining, and felling of trees unless commissioned by the Government under any such circumstances. A detailed Tourism Master Plan has been created, which will specify the control over all tourism activities as per a Carrying Capacity Study. This plan ensures that the current tourism trends will not be drastically affected, but there will be a monitory body which will regulate the tourist traffic into this region. This is only to make sure that the natural ecology of the region is maintained.

The plan also focuses on preservation of Natural Heritage. It stresses on identifying existing rock formations, waterfalls, pools, gorges, groves, caves, points, walks, rides etc. Man-made heritage i.e. buildings, structures, artifacts, areas and precincts of historical, architectural, aesthetical, and cultural significance shall be identified and plans for their conservation, particularly their exteriors (and wherever deemed appropriate their interiors also) have been prepared.

Some of the other important factors which have been included in the plan are Control of Ground Water, Regulation on use of Plastics, Protection of hill slopes, Discharge of effluents and Segregation of solid wastes. This plan also emphasizes on maintaining a natural habitat for the existing wildlife and making it more compatible for migrating and habitat oriented animals and birds.

Mahabaleshwar being the summer capital of Maharashtra and all, this news had become a threat to many regular tourists and businessmen. But, as per this Zonal Master Plan, the region will continue functioning the way it had been, but with regulatory measures ensuring the safety of the region as well as the people dwelling here and those visiting.
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