Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary Exempted from SC’s ESZ Mandate

On December 1, the Supreme Court exempted Maharashtra’s Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) from its June order mandating the creation of a 1 km eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around all protected areas in India.

About Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

Tungareshwar wildlife sanctuary or Tungareshwar National Park is situated on a plateau east of Vasai and Virar in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. It is located at the northern periphery of Mumbai, spreading across 85 sq km area. It forms a corridor between the Borivali National Park and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary.

The wildlife sanctuary has three different types of forests – Dry Deciduous, Moist Deciduous and Semi Evergreen. It has rich biodiversity, with diverse populations of flora and fauna. It is currently facing challenges from irresponsible tourism, deforestation, illegal construction, encroachments for agricultural activities and hunting.

SC’s ESZ mandate

On June 3, 2022, the Supreme Court had directed all protected forest, national park and wildlife sanctuaries across India to have a mandatory eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) of a minimum of 1 km starting from their demarcated boundaries. The ESZs are set up around the protected areas as a “shock observer”. They act as a transition zone from the areas with high protection to those having lesser protection.

Why was Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary exempted from SC order mandating the creation of 1 km-ESZ?

  • The Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary was exempted by the Supreme Court mandate of creating 1 km ESZ due to practical difficulties and ground realities.
  • The SC Bench observed that there were instances involving notified forests expand to reach into city areas where urban activities may have been taking place for the past several years.
  • The order for exemption was given while hearing the plea filed by CREDAI-MCHI, a body consisting of members from the real estate sector in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
  • It took into account the earlier order exempting the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary in Mumbai.

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