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India slow in saving national parks, wildlife sanctuaries

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New Delhi, July 01: A reply by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) shows that India has been moving slowly to save its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

It has been 13 years since the Supreme Court asked all the states to safeguard Protected Areas (National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries) by surrounding them with a buffer of Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs).

India slow in saving national parks, wildlife sanctuaries

The MOEFCC is supposed to notify ESZs around Protected Areas. 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. They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.

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 are prohibited activities in ESZs.

Out of a total 651 Protected areas, however, final ESZ Notification 316 covering 316 Protected Areas and Draft ESZ Notifications covering 199 Protected Areas have been published by the Ministry as on June 25, 2019, Minister of State in the MOEFCC Babul Supriyo informed Lok Sabha while answering a question posed by Rajeshbhai Chudasama.

According to the information provided by the Minister, final ESZ Notification has not been published for even a single Protected Area of Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, and Pondicherry.

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Kerala has 23 Protected Areas and Draft ESZ notification has been issued for 22.

Out of Jammu and Kashmir's 19 Protected Areas, Draft ESZ notification has been issued for only four.

All the Protected Areas of Nagaland, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, and Pondicherry have been left open for exploitation as neither Draft nor Final ESZ notification has been issued for them.

Nagaland has 04, and Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, and Pondicherry have one Protected Area each.

Final ESZ notification has been published for one Protected Area out of 13 in Arunachal Pradesh. Out of Assam's 23 Protected Areas, only one has been notified as ESZ.

Similarly, out of Chhattisgarh's 14 Protected Areas, Final ESZ notification has been issued for only two.

In Himachal Pradesh, Final ESZ notification has been issued for seven Protected Areas out of 34.

It's notable that the ESZs are Notified under section 3 (v) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 and Rule 5 Sub Rule (viii) & (x) of the Environment (Protection) Rules 1986.

Babul Supriyo also informed the Lok Sabha that The Notification provides for prohibition of mining, stone quarrying and crushing units located within one Km. of Protected Areas and added that in absence of ESZ Notification, an area of 10 Km around the Protected Areas is considered as default ESZ as per the directions of the Supreme Court.

Interestingly, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in March this year allowed reducing the Eco-Sensitive Zone of Karnataka's Bannerghatta National Park despite objections by various citizens' groups.

The new ESZ will range from 100 metres (towards Bengaluru) to 1 kilometre (in Ramanagaram district) from the periphery of the protected area.

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