Who stands where on ESZ

Down to Earth - - SPE­CIAL RE­PORT -

ECO-SEN­SI­TIVE ZONES ( ESZ) are eco­log­i­cally im­por­tant ar­eas no­ti­fied un­der the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Act. Cre­at­ing ESZs around pro­tected ar­eas (PAs) was first pro­posed by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Forests (MoEF) in 2002. It had de­cided that an area of 10 km from the bound­aries of all PAs should be de­clared eco-sen­si­tive. But many states op­posed this. The de­ci­sion was chal­lenged in the Supreme Court.

In 2006, the Supreme Court or­dered that states will declare ecosen­si­tive zones on case-to-case ba­sis, and that in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity in such zones would be reg­u­lated in­stead of be­ing pro­hib­ited.

In De­cem­ber 2006, the court asked MoEF to give a fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to the states to declare ESZs. It warned the states that if they did not sub­mit ESZ pro­pos­als within the time given by MoEF, it might declare an ESZ of 10 km around all PAs. It also di­rected that all projects which had got en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance but fell within 10 km of PAs should be placed be­fore the Na­tional Board of Wildlife (NBWL) for ap­proval. MoEF in­ter­preted this or­der say­ing that till site-spe­cific ESZs are not no­ti­fied in a par­tic­u­lar PA, all the projects that fall within 10 km of the PA and re­quire en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance will need NBWL's ap­proval.

In Fe­bru­ary 2011, MoEF for­mu­lated guide­lines for iden­ti­fy­ing area-spe­cific ESZs. As per the guide­lines, min­ing and most pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries and change of land use were pro­hib­ited in ESZ-sand other de­vel­op­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties were reg­u­lated. How­ever, few states fol­lowed this.

In De­cem­ber 2012, while hear­ing a pe­ti­tion on the buf­fer zones of PAs in Goa, the Supreme Court again di­rected MoEF to give the states a fi­nal chance for no­ti­fy­ing ESZs. June 2013 was the fi­nal dead­line. Till June 30, 2013, out of the to­tal 670 PAs that do not have ESZs, the MoEF re­ceived pro­pos­als only for 360.

On April 21 this year, the Supreme Court clar­i­fied it had never or­dered 10 km ra­dius ESZs.

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