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Eco-Sensitive Zone and Kerala

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    6th Jul, 2022

Context

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.

About

What are Eco-Sensitive Zone?

  • 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’.

Protected areas are those in which human occupation or at least the exploitation of resources is limited. 

  • They are supposed to act as the 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. 

ESZ Guidelines classify activities under three categories:

  • Prohibited: Commercial Mining, Setting of Saw Mill, Setting of industries causing pollution, 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, rain water harvesting, organic farming etc.

Why are people protesting against it?

  • High density of human population near the notified protected areas.
  • Likely impact 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.
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