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What Are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

Context:

The Supreme Court has directed that every protected forest, national park and wildlife sanctuary across the country should have a mandatory eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of a minimum one km starting from their demarcated boundaries.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?
  2. Activities Allowed in ESZs
  3. How are they demarcated?

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

  • Eco Sensitive Zones are fragile areas around protected areas declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • They are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • Among activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood and discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas.
  • No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within 1 km of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of the eco-sensitive zone, whichever is nearer, except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities.

Activities Allowed in ESZs

  • Prohibited activities: Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Regulated activities: Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.
  • Permitted activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.

How are they demarcated?

  • The term “Eco-Sensitive Zones” is not mentioned in the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986.
  • Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, on the other hand, states that the Central Government has the authority to limit the areas in which any industry, operation, or process, or class of industries, operations, or processes, may be carried out or not, subject to certain safeguards.
  • Besides to Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 stipulates that the central government has the authority to ban or restrict the location of industries and the conduct of certain operations or processes based on specified factors.
  • The government has declared No Development Zones based on the same grounds (NDZs).

-Source: The Hindu


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