Eco-Sensitive Zone and Kerala
Polity & Governance
6th Jul, 2022
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.
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.