Kerala Chief Minister recently assured people living on the extremities of protected forests spread across 115 densely populated panchayats in the State that they would not lose their land or livelihood to the Supreme Court-suggested one-kilometre buffer zone around ecologically sensitive localities (ESZ).
About Eco-Sensitive Zones:
- As per the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, land within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is to be notified as eco-fragile zones or Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ).
- While the 10-km rule is implemented as a general principle, the extent of its application can vary.
- Areas beyond 10-km can also be notified by the Union government as ESZs, if they hold larger ecologically important “sensitive corridors”.
Why are Eco-Sensitive Zones created?
- According to the guidelines issued by the Environment Ministry in 2011, Eco-Sensitive Zones are created as “shock absorbers” for the protected areas, to minimize the negative impact on the “fragile ecosystems” by certain human activities taking place nearby.
- These areas are meant to act as a transition zone from areas requiring higher protection to those requiring lesser protection.
- They are not meant to hamper the daily activities of people living in the vicinity, but are meant to guard the protected areas and “refine the environment around them”.
What are activities prohibited in an Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ)?
- Commercial mining, saw mills, commercial use of wood, etc., apart from regulated activities like felling of trees.
What are the permitted activities?
- Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, among others.
Q1) How many Eco-Sensitive Zones are in India?
Ecologically Sensitive Zones are notified by the Ministry of Environment ,Forests and Climate Change under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (National Wildlife Action Plan, 2002-2016). India has more than 600 Ecologically Sensitive Zones declared across different states.