Eco Sensitive Zones (ESZ)
Indian Board of Wildlife, established under Wildlife Protection Act, 1974, framed the National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2002-2016. It states, “Areas outside the protected area network are often vital ecological corridor links and must be protected to prevent isolation of fragments of biodiversity which will not survive in the long run. Land and water use policies will need to accept the imperative of strictly protecting ecologically fragile habitats and regulating use elsewhere”. It also stated, “All identified areas around Protected Areas and Wildlife corridors to be declared as ecologically fragile under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986”
Following this guidelines were issued to states, inviting proposals regarding declaration of ESZ, and a simple criteria of 10 kms around the perimeter was suggested. This was vehemently opposed by most of the states on account of nearby settlements, economic activities and other various developmental concerns.
Considering the constraints, National Board for Wildlife, decided to loosen up the directives and announced that ESZ would have to be site specific and relate to the regulation, other than prohibition.
Even after this, the process of notification of ESZ, was extremely slow. Various PILs filed in Supreme Court and repeated orders by Court has fallen on deaf ears, and centre and state has been playing boomerang.
The conflict was recently in news considering demarcation of ESZ in Western Ghats, which happens to be one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. Two committees have already looked into the issue, Madhav Gadgil Committee and K Kasturirangan Committee, which suggested various levels of areas to be suggested to be declared as ESZ.
Purpose: The purpose of declaring Eco Sensitive Zones around National Parks and Sanctuaries is to create some kind of “Shock Absorber” for Protected Areas. This would also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
The activities has to be classified as below:
- Restricted with safeguards
Clearly the notification and success of ESZ depends upon co-ordination of centre and state and also its faster declaration would serve the purpose of further degradation of areas close to protected areas.