With the deadline to demolish an ashram located inside the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS) less than two weeks away, the state forest department has said it will request the Supreme Court (SC) for an extension, citing the weather as a cause for delay.

“With moderate to heavy showers underway, carrying out demolition in the hilly, mucky forest terrain of TWLS will not be an easy task. We will be requesting the SC to give us some more time to execute the order. We will have more clarity on the situation by the end of this week,” said a senior official from Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).

Spread across 0.69 hectare (1.7 acres), the Balayogi Shree Sadanand Maharaj Ashram starts from Tungar phata and is located on the eastern end of Thane district. On May 7, while hearing an interim application filed by Debi Goenka of Conservation Action Trust, an SC bench of justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta had directed the state to demolish the ashram before the next date of hearing (July 22).

The ashram filed a miscellaneous application (MA) before the SC last month, stating the ashram is not on reserved forest area. “A notification by the Maharashtra government from October 24, 2003 and a communication to this Ashram on June 29, 2006, both clearly state that the compartment number 1082 of survey number 121 of village Paralof, Vasai (location of the Ashram), is not included in TWLS,” the application read. It also said that though Central empowered committees constituted by the SC in 2009 had directed the ashram be relocated to village Hinghood, in Thane, “steps for relocation have not taken place and the aforesaid land for relocation is not available.” HT has a copy of application.

Anwar Ahmed, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP, said a response to the MA has been filed with the state government. Additional principal chief conservator of forest (APCCF – Mantralaya) Virendra Tiwari said, “There are certain issues we are taking up with the government. As of now, no date has been fixed for the demolition.”Meanwhile, the petitioner has alleged political pressure was causing delay in implementing the SC order. “There have been several cases where demolition has been carried out during monsoon,” said Goenka.

First Published:
Jul 11, 2019 05:30 IST

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