Will the SC get into the zone?
The apex court may li the interim ban on tiger tourism next week but the real game-changer is slotted for 2 November
specific and relate to regulation, rather than prohibition, of specific activities”. But the states continued to drag their feet. In 2006, hearing a PIL, the directed the MOEF to seek proposals from all states within four weeks. The court also ordered that all cases, where environmental clearances were granted for projects within 10 km from protected forests, be referred to the But given the lack of political will, few ESZs could be notified.
Last year, in a bid to end the deadlock, the MOEF issued a flexible guideline. While the width of an could still go up to 10 km or even more where sensitive corridors were present, it said that the width and the types or extent of regulations may not be uniform all around a reserve and could also differ from reserve to reserve. Most states remained unresponsive.
Finally, sensing the enormity of a case-to-case exer-
ESZ rules will be far more effective than some evasive ecotourism guidelines in curbing resorts
cise, the SC- appointed Central Empowered Committee recommended a new graded formula last month. For four categories of protected forests — above 500 sq km, 200-500 sq km, 100-200 sq km and below 100 sq km — it proposed ESZ widths of 2 km, 1 km, 500 metres and 100 metres, respectively.
Though many have trashed the dilution as an invitation to mining and mega projects, this graded approach is pragmatic. For example, under a blanket 10-km width policy, forest areas of 400 (20x20) sq km could require 1,200 (40x40-400) sq km to be declared ESZ. But for a 100 (10x10) sq km forest, the ESZ requirement could be a mammoth 800 (30x30-100) sq km.
However, the proposed ESZ widths need reconsideration. The few sizeable chunks of wilderness demand protective rings that stretch over a minimum of 5 km. The ecological integrity of smaller forests needs at least a 1-km low-impact zone to benefit at all. Also, these graded stipulations serve best as the minimum mandatory widths of ESZs and should be extended based on site-specific threats.
Hopefully, these concerns will be addressed when the SC hears the MOEF’s views on 2 November and sets the ball rolling for time-bound notification of ESZs across India. The potential is enormous. Rajasthan, for example, has proposed regulations that bar construction on more than 10 percent of land-holding within ESZs. Once notified, such rules will be far more effective than some evasive ecotourism guidelines in curbing proliferation of polluting and resource-guzzling resorts around our best forests.
• Choked The blocked Kosi corridor at the Corbett National Park