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

Tehelka - - MAHARASHTRA -

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

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