New Delhi(PTI): The sluggish pace of eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) demarcation by several state governments has prompted the environment ministry to put on hold consideration of projects, situated around protected areas, for wildlife clearance. The standing committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has decided that they will not consider projects for wildlife clearance until ESZ’s are fully notified. The NBWL standing committee is in-charge of appraising infrastructure, real estate and industrial projects that fall within protected areas (PA) such as national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves or within 10kms from them.
The environment ministry has been pushing states to demarcate ESZ’s around 624 protected areas to enforce the apex court’s 2006 ruling that said that until Centre notified ESZ’s, an area of 10kms from the PA’s would be considered as the ESZ. The ministry plans to notify all ESZ’s by March next year. In the NBWL’s last meeting earlier this month, 53 proposals were on the agenda and the board did deferred deciding the fate of almost 15 of them because ESZ’s were not complete. Nine projects from Uttarakhand including Sand Bajri mining, Boulder mining and three power projects that were located close to PA’s were not considered for appraisal as their respective ESZ’s have not been notified.
Usually, when an ESZ is demarcated for protected areas, the notification finalising its boundaries specifies all the activities carried out inside or outside the PA and the ministry regulates the activities on the basis of the impact they have on the local flora and fauna. ESZ’s share more or less a similar habitat to the core protected areas and are a crucial link for migration of wild animals, often termed as wildlife corridors.
According to the ministry, till August, 176 proposals were in the process of being finalised while nearly 32 ESZ’s were already notified. Ministry data also showed that a total of 445 proposals of ESZ’s were submitted. Even as the ministry paused appraisal of projects for lack of ESZ’s, environmentalists have said the ministry has been in a hurry to demarcate them, without specifying scientific basis of deciding ESZ boundaries.