SC modifies judgement on eco-sensitive zones around protected forests

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SC modifies judgement on eco-sensitive zones around protected forests

Recently, the Supreme Court has modified the decision on the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around protected forests.

The Supreme Court on April 26 modified its earlier decision declaring mandatory eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) of a minimum distance of one kilometer around protected forests, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country.

Key Points:

  • Justice BR Gavai argued that the ESZ cannot be uniform across the country and should have different areas in different protected areas.
  • It may be noted that on June 3, 2022, the apex court had declared a buffer zone of 1 kilometer for protected areas as a “shock absorber” and made it mandatory to declare them as ESZs.
  • By the judicial order of June 2022, hundreds of villages based in the periphery of the forests had come under the ambit of this area, whose daily activities would have been affected.
  • The amendment in this decision was demanded by several state governments including the Kerala government and the central government.

Revised Decision:

  • The Supreme Court, in its amended order, said that its June 2022 order will not apply to protected areas where national parks and sanctuaries are located on inter-state boundaries and share common boundaries.
  • Also, this order will not be applicable in respect of draft and final notifications in respect of National Parks and Sanctuaries issued by the Ministry of Environment and ESZ proposals received by the Ministry.
  • The court clarified that mining would not be permitted within a national park and wildlife sanctuary and within an area of one kilometer from the boundary of such national park and wildlife sanctuary.

Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ)

  • The Wildlife Conservation Strategy of the year 2002 notified the ecologically fragile areas or eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) under section 3(2)(v) of the Environment Protection Act 1986 and its rules 5 (viii) and (x). To be envisaged land within 10 km of the boundaries of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. ,
  • Explain that protected areas cover 5.26% of India’s land area, which includes 108 national parks and 564 wildlife sanctuaries. These protected areas have been notified under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
  • Most of the activities are restricted in reserved forests like national parks, while there are relatively few restrictions in wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Around these protected areas, an area of over 111,000 km² – or 3.4% of the country’s land – actually falls under eco-sensitive zones (ESZ).
  • Governments have notified 341 ESZs in 29 states and five union territories, while another 85 protected areas are awaiting ESZ notification. Together, protected areas and ESZs cover 8.66% of India’s land area.
  • ESZs spread outside protected areas in notified forests, most of which may also fall under the jurisdiction of gram sabhas under FRA.
  • The extent of ESZs can range from 0 to 45.82 km from the boundary of a protected area, such as the ESZ in Pin Valley National Park in Himachal Pradesh extends up to 45.82 km.
  • Fifteen states have ESZs of more than 10 km.

Source – The Hindu

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