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(B A Raju/TOI, BCCL)

Cheering environmentalists, Maharashtra will get 18 new wildlife reserves and seven proposed sanctuaries, taking the total of such protected areas in the state to 52, officials said on Wednesday.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde approved the proposals at a meeting of the State Wildlife Board in the presence of Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and others, which will now take the protected areas in the state to around 13,000 square km.

The 18 new reserves are Velhe-Mulshi (87.41 square km) and Lonavala (121.41 square km) in Pune-Raigad districts, Naneghat (98.78 square km) in Pune-Thane districts, Bhorgirigad (37.64 square km) in Pune district, Dindori (62.10 square km), Surgana (86.28 square km), and Taharabad (122.45 sq. km) – all in Nashik district.

Besides, there is Khareghat (97.45 square km), Chinchpada (93.91 square km) in Nandurbar district, Ghera Manikgad (53.25 square km), Alibaug (60.03 square km) in Raigad district, Gumtara (125.50 square km) in Thane district, Rajmachi (83.15 sq. kms) in Thane-Pune districts, Jawhar (118.28 square km), Dhamani (49.15 square km), Aherigarh (80.95 square km) in Palghar district, Atpadi (9.48 square km) in Sangli district, and Ekara (102.99 square km) in Chandrapur district.

The CM said that Conservation Reserve Areas (CRAs) are declared to protect the habitats of flora and fauna in the territory adjacent to national parks or sanctuaries or connectors to such reserved areas.

The proposed CRAs include Saptashringigad in Nashik district, Bhairavgad in Thane district, Dhareshwar, Trikuteshwar, Kannad, Pedkagad in Aurangabad district and Kinwat in Nanded district, he said.

Mungantiwar proposed that a ‘State Wildlife Fund’ should be established for various conservation efforts, biodiversity projects and compensation to the locals, at the meeting attended by top officials like Venugopal Reddy, Dr Y.L.P. Rao, Sunil Limaye, and others.

The development came two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address a national conference of all Environment Ministers in the country.

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The above article has been published from a wire agency with minimal modifications to the headline and text.

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