Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology
Why in news?
Railway projects, small-scale development works involving construction over less than 20,000 square metres, and under-25 MW capacity hydropower plants will not require approval from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) even if they are located within eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) of national parks or wildlife sanctuaries, the environment ministry has said.
- The ministry said NBWL’s nod will be needed only for projects that require prior environment clearance or are located in areas linking one protected area to another.
- The ministry has accordingly changed the wording of the Handbook of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
- It adds those that do not have a notified ESZ will require an NBWL nod only if the proposal requires prior environment clearance and is located within a 10 km radius of a protected area.
- Proposals for projects to be located in a corridor connecting one protected area to another will also require NBWL’s approval.
- The ministry’s clarifications go a step further and say smaller projects, which do not fall under the purview of Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, do not need to seek wildlife clearance no matter where they are located in buffer zones.
- Inland waterways and railways are also exempt from prior environmental clearance and hence will also be exempt from NBWL’s approval even if they fall in ESZs of protected areas.
Concerns regarding ESZ
- ESZs were meant to be “shock absorbers” and transition zones from areas of high to low protection for wildlife and biodiversity, as per the ministry’s 2011 guidelines on declaring such zones.
- The 2002 Wildlife Conservation Strategy also recommends a 10 km buffer around sanctuaries.
- The Supreme Court in December 2006 directed all states and Union territories to follow the strategy while hearing a plea over a delay in declaring ESZs.
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
- NBWL was constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- Hence, NBWL is a Statutory body.
- NBWL has 47 members, with the Prime Minister as the Chairman.
- NBWL is “advisory” in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
- Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
- It serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
- It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
- All the changes or alterations of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries require NBWL’s approval.
-Source: Hindustan Times