MoEF asks all states to declare eco sensitive zones around national parks, sanctuaries by Feb 15, 2013

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has set the February 15, 2013 as deadline for all states to submit site-specific proposals declaring eco sensitive zones around national parks and sanctuaries.  A decade back, the National Board for Wildlife had envisaged declaring areas within 10 km of the boundary of national parks and sanctuaries as eco-sensitive zones.

What is the purpose of creating eco-sensitive zones?
The need for creation of eco fragile zones was proposed at the 21st meeting of Indian Board for Wildlife in 2002 when “Wildlife Conservation Strategy 2002” was adopted. It was proposed that land falling within 10 kms of the boundaries of National Parks and Sanctuaries should be notified as eco-fragile zones. The purpose is to create some kind of “Shock Absorber” for the protected areas which would also functions as a transition zone from highly protected areas to areas involving lesser protection. The activities in the eco-sensitive zones would be of a regulatory nature rather than prohibitive nature, unless and otherwise so required.
What is the extent of these areas?
The extent of the eco-sensitive zones could go upto 10 kms surrounding the protected area. However, in case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches crucial for landscape linkages, are even beyond 10 kms width, these should be included in Eco-sensitive zones. Further the distribution of an eco-sensitive zone and the extent of regulation may not be uniform all around it and could be of variable width and extent.
What are the MoEF norms under eco-sensitive zone? 
As per the MoEF norms, activities like commercial mining, setting up of industries causing pollution, commercial use of firewood, establishment of all hydroelectric projects, use or production of any hazardous substances and tourism activities like flying over the national park area by any aircraft or hot-air balloons and discharge of effluents and solid waste in natural water bodies or terrestrial area are prohibited.
Why the site-specific proposals have been asked for?
After MoEF found that many of the existing protected areas have already undergone enormous development in proximity with the boundaries with national parks and sanctuaries, it has asked all states to come up with site specific proposals indentifying eco-sensitive zones. Similarly, the eco-sensitive zones could extend beyond 10 km width in cases of sensitive corridors for connectivity of ecologically important patches crucial for landscape linkage.
What if a state/Union Territory fails to submit site-specific proposals?
In case, the State/Union Territory governments fail to submit the proposals within the deadline, the activities that have been prohibited as per the MoEF guidelines would stand prohibited within 10 km of the boundary of National Parks and Sanctuaries.



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