Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)

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

What are ESZ? 
• Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) 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.
• They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
• The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word ‘Eco-Sensitive Zones’.
• An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation  Strategy, 2002.
• Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial  for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.

What are the Directions given by the Court?
• In case any national park or protected forest already has a buffer zone extending beyond one km, that would prevail.
• In case the question of the extent of buffer zone was pending a statutory decision, then the court’s direction to maintain the one-km safety zone would be applicable until a final decision is arrived at under the law.
• Mining within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries shall not be permitted.
• The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Home Secretaries of States responsible for the compliance  of the judgment

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