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SC modifies '1 Km' green zone order, lifts ban on development

  • Published
    27th Apr, 2023

The Supreme Court modified its June 2022 order that ruled each national park and wildlife sanctuary must have an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of a minimum 1km, measured from the demarcated boundary of such protected forest, while also lifting a complete ban on development and construction activities within ESZs.

The reason behind the development

  • SC stated that its 2022 order on uniform ESZs was not workable and that its directive prohibiting all development activities within such zones is “impossible to be implemented”.
    • The area to be declared as ESZ cannot be uniform and will be protected area specific.
    • In some cases, it may be 10km on one side and 500m on the other side. In certain cases, it may not be possible to have a uniform minimum area by virtue of interstate boundaries or a sea or a river beyond one side of the protected area.

What are 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.
  • According to the guidelines issued by the Environment Ministry in 2011, ESZs are created as “shock absorbers” for the protected areas, to minimize the negative impact on the “fragile ecosystems” by certain human activities taking place nearby.
    • Furthermore, these areas are meant to act as transition zone from areas requiring higher protection to those requiring lesser protection.
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