SC pulls up govt over de­ci­sion to re­duce eco-sen­si­tive zone ra­dius

The Free Press Journal - - NATION - AGEN­CIES

The Supreme Court has ex­pressed sur­prise over the Cen­tre’s de­ci­sion to re­duce the ra­dius of eco-sen­si­tive zones from 10 kilo­me­tres to 100 me­tres, say­ing it ap­peared to be a “com­plete ar­bi­trary ex­er­cise of pow­ers” ca­pa­ble of de­stroy­ing na­tional parks and wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies, re­ports PTI.

The court’s re­marks came in a case chal­leng­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance given to an in­dus­trial unit lo­cated within the 10-kilo­me­tre ra­dius of Dadar and Na­gar Haveli Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary.

“It is ex­tremely sur­pris­ing that the 10-kms eco-sen­si­tive zone has been re­duced by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and For­est (MoEF) to 100 me­tres. Since an or­der of this na­ture is ca­pa­ble of de­stroy­ing na­tional parks and wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies in the coun­try, we would like to ex­am­ine the va­lid­ity of this re­duc­tion,” a bench of jus­tices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.

“Prima fa­cie, it ap­pears to us a com­plete ar­bi­trary ex­er­cise of power by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and For­est,” it said.

The bench tagged the case with an­other pend­ing mat­ter re­lated to en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues which is listed for hear­ing on Mon­day.

It ques­tioned Ad­di­tional So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral ANS Nand­karni, ap­pear­ing for the Cen­tre, as to whether the gov­ern­ment wants to de­stroy wildlife, re­served forests, rivers and sanc­tu­ar­ies in the coun­try.

“You (Cen­tre) have to sat­isfy us on the point as to how you in­tend to pro­tect the wildlife, en­vi­ron­ment. Has the con­cept of ‘pro­tected ar­eas’ be­come ir­rel­e­vant now?” the bench asked.

The Wildlife Board of In­dia had in 2002 adopted the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Strat­egy un­der which it was stated that land falling within a 10-km ra­dius of the bound­aries of the Na­tional Parks/Wildlife Sanc­tu­ar­ies should be no­ti­fied as Eco-Frag­ile Zone un­der pro­vi­sions of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act.

The apex court had en­dorsed the stand of the Cen­tre ear­mark­ing a 10 kilo­me­tre ra­dius as buf­fer zone around na­tional parks and wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies.

How­ever, since 2015, the MoEF by sev­eral no­ti­fi­ca­tions has re­duced the buf­fer zone ra­dius from 10 kilo­me­tres to upto 100 me­tres.

The Na­tional Green Tri­bunal in 2013 had banned con­struc­tion and halted 49 res­i­den­tial projects be­ing built within a 10-kilo­me­tre ra­dius of Okhla Bird Sanc­tu­ary. It had also pulled up the Noida Au­thor­ity and the MoEF for fail­ure to take ac­tion against the vi­o­la­tors.

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