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Eco-sensitive zones provoked protests

  • Published
    19th Jan, 2023

Farmers in Kerala continue to protest across several high ranges of the state against the Supreme Court’s recent order to establish 1 km Eco-Sensitive Zones around all protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

  • The aim of ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) was to adopt a community-specific conservation approach but the government has adopted one size fit for all approach.
About Eco-sensitive zones:
  • As per the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, land within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is to be notified as eco-fragile zones or Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ).
  • While the 10-km rule is implemented as a general principle, the extent of its application can vary.
  • Areas beyond 10 km can also be notified by the Union government as ESZs, if they hold larger ecologically important “sensitive corridors.”
  • The Eco-Sensitive Zones are envisaged as a cushion or shock absorbers for ‘protected areas’.
  • They are supposed to act as transition zones from areas of high protection to less protection.
  • They are like an ecotone- the transition between two biological communities or ecosystems, and it is crucial for the protection of protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries and forests.
  • Objective: to reduce the impact of human intervention in the core protected area

Who notifies them?

They are notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.

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

ESZ Guidelines classify activities under three categories:

  • Prohibited: Commercial Mining, Setting of Saw Mills, Setting of industries causing pollution, the establishment of major hydroelectric projects etc.
  • Regulated: Felling of Trees, Establishment of hotels and resorts, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agricultural systems etc.
  • Permitted: Ongoing agriculture and horticulture practices by local communities, rainwater harvesting, organic farming etc.

Why are people protesting against it?

  • The high density of human population near the notified protected areas.
  • It likely impacts the livelihoods of farmers
  • The total extent of the wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala is eight lakh acres. If one km of ESZ is demarcated from their boundaries, around 4 lakh acres of human settlements, including farmlands, would come within that purview.
  • The aim of ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) was to adopt a community-specific conservation approach but the government has adopted one size fit for all approach.


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