Mumbai

Demolish ashram inside Tungareshwar, says SC

Encroacher: Shree Sadanand Maharaj Ashram

Encroacher: Shree Sadanand Maharaj Ashram  

Ashram had encroached on forest land: environmental trust

The Supreme Court has directed the State government to demolish the Balayogi Shree Sadanand Maharaj Ashram that has been inside the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary for 30 years.

In January 2019, the Conservation Action Trust in a petition pointed to the ashram’s encroachment of forest land, illegal construction and widening of roads that was causing damage to flora and fauna at the sanctuary. Environmentalist Debi Goenka is the executive trustee of the Trust.

According to the Trust, the ashram was allowed 0.69 hectares and the encroachment has taken place on double the area. The ashram also has a concrete multistorey building.

The petition said the ashram has been violating provisions of the Forest Conservation Act and Wildlife Protection Act by continuing to encroach on forest land in spite of reports by the Supreme Court-instituted Centrally Empowered Committee that recommended the ashram should be removed from within the sanctuary.

The Trust said the ashram continued to build more structures without approval and that access roads are being illegally widened and converted into fairweather roads bit by bit.

Recently, the sanctuary and forest areas around it have been faced with an increase in landslides due to the unscientific extraction of soil by the ashram for widening and construction of roads as well as due to the blasting of rocks.

The devotees visiting the ashram also cause a lot of disturbance to the wildlife, it said.

On May 19, 2016, the ashram submitted a project note online to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change stating that considering the emotional attachment of devotees, the ashram and encroachments within the sanctuary may be regularised.

“Let the State government take action of demolition of the ashram within eight weeks in accordance with law,” said a Division Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta.

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Printable version | Mar 26, 2020 2:36:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/demolish-ashram-inside-tungareshwar-says-sc/article27131380.ece

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