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Eco-Sensitive Zones

Source: TH

 Context: The Supreme Court of India has modified its earlier judgment that mandated a minimum one-kilometre eco-sensitive zone around protected forests, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries across the country.


Changed Order:

Aspect Previous 2022 Order Changed Order
Minimum ESZ distance 1 km ESZ cannot be uniform across the country and has to be “protected area-specific”.
Applicability of order Applied universally to all protected areas Not applicable to ESZs for which draft and final notifications have been issued by MoEF&CC and in respect of proposals.
Mining allowed Not specified, but implied to be allowed within ESZ No mining is allowed, either within national parks and sanctuaries or in a 1 km radius.
Development activities Not specified, but subject to restrictions Any developmental activities undertaken within ESZs should follow the MoEF&CC 2011 guidelines and provisions of the 2022 Office Memorandum by MoEF&CC
Exception Not specified Where national parks and sanctuaries are located on inter-state borders or share common boundaries.


Why SC changed its 2022 order?

  • The earlier order had affected hundreds of villages in the peripheries of forests,
  • The stringent observance of the judgment would hamper the development of basic infrastructure like schools, dispensaries, and roads, and affect eco-development activities around national parks and sanctuaries.
  • The order would also impact certain projects of national and strategic importance such as the construction of national highways, railways, defence-related infrastructure, etc.


About Eco-sensitive zone:

Eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) An area around a protected area like a national park or wildlife sanctuary
Purpose To conserve the biodiversity and ecosystems of protected areas by regulating human activities
Regulations The government can regulate and restrict certain activities in ESZs through guidelines and laws
Activities Activities that can be regulated include mining, construction, and tourism
Size As per National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), land within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is to be notified as ESZ. However, its size can vary depending on the location and specific needs of the protected area
Notification ESZs are designated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) (under the Environment Protection Act, 1986)
Importance ESZs are crucial for maintaining the ecological balance, and integrity and protecting the wildlife of India