Introduction

Introduction

The National Environment Policy (2006) defined the Eco-Sensitive Zones “as areas/zones with identified environmental resources having incomparable values which require special attention for their conservation” because of its landscape, wildlife, biodiversity, historical and natural values. In order to protect the environment and the biological integrity of the area outside the protected areas and other such areas where an eco-system has been adversely affected due to anthropogenic and climatic factors, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has been declaring such areas as Eco-sensitive zones/ areas. In other words, it is a type of designation of an area, which is rich in environmental resources and need special protection.

The concept of Eco Sensitive Zone was conceived during the XXI meeting of the Indian Board for Wildlife held on 21st January, 2002, when the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002 was adopted. The point no.9 envisaged that “lands falling within 10kms of the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries should be notified as eco-fragile zones under section 3(v) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Rule 5, sub-rule (viii) and (x) of the environment (Protections) Rules”. The National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) (2002-2016) indicated that ‘Areas outside the protected area network are often vital ecological corridor links and must be protected to prevent isolation of fragments of bio-diversity which will not survive in the long run. Land and water use policies will need to accept the imperative of strictly protecting ecologically fragile habitat and regulating use elsewhere’. The action plan also indicated that ‘all identified areas around protected areas and wildlife corridors to be declared as ecologically fragile under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

In pursuance to the decision taken by the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) and to facilitate the site-specific proposal for the ESZ from the State Government, Ministry had issued the Guidelines for declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zone in 2011 with an indicative list of activities which are to be Prohibited, Regulated or Promoted.

Purpose:

  • Protect environment and avoid its degradation due to anthropogenic activities.
  • Create some kind of barrier/ shock absorber for the specialized ecosystem (PAs).
  • Act as transition zone from areas of higher protection to areas involving lesser protection.

Objective:

  • To maintain the response level of an ecosystem within the permissible limits w.r.t environmental parameters.
  • To notify the area as an Eco- sensitive zone and to regulate the developmental activities in a sustainable manner taking into consideration the needs and aspiration of the local people.

Salient Features of ESZ :

  • The ESZ Notification captures the following features:
  1. Brief on the Protected Area
  2. Area of ESZ and Extent of ESZ (Minimum and Maximum)
  3. Available Flora, Fauna [Including Endemic, Rare, Endangered and Threaten (RET) species]
  4. Boundary Description of ESZ
  5. Maps of the ESZ
  6. Geo-coordinates of prominent locations of PA and ESZ  along with Shape/ KML files
  7. List of villages along with Geo-co-ordinates
  8. General guideline on Zonal Master Plan
  9. Measures to be taken by the State Government
  10. Prohibited and Regulated Activities along with Promoted Activities
  11. Details of Monitoring Committee

The ESZ Notification does not involve displacement and evacuation of farmers/people living in the villages. The activities in the ESZ are generally regulated and not prohibitory in nature barring a few such as (i) commercial mining, stone quarrying and crushing units; (ii) major hydroelectric project; (iii) handling of hazardous substances; (iv) discharge of untreated effluents; (v) setting up of brick kilns; (vi) setting up of polluting industries, which have high potential for environmental damage. As such, there is no prohibition on ongoing agriculture and horticulture practices by local communities, dairy farming, aquaculture, fisheries, poultry farm, goat farm, food related units etc. Further, the activities like infrastructure augmentation including civic amenities, widening of roads, non-polluting industries etc. are also under regulated category.

No new commercial construction of any kind is permitted within one Kilometre from the boundary of the Protected
Area or up to extent of the Eco-Sensitive Zone whichever is nearer. However, there is no restriction for local people, they may undertake construction in their land for their use.

Important Links :

1. Guidelines, Amendments and Important Court Orders on ESZ. 2. Agenda and Minutes of meeting of ESZ Expert Committee. 3. Eco-Sensitive Zone(ESZ) Notifications. 4. Eco-Sensitive Area (ESA) Notifications.