On December 9, 2011 the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change circulated guidelines for declaring eco-sensitive zones (ECZs) around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, focusing on identifying activities such as commercial mining, felling of trees, setting up of sawmills and other pollution causing industries, establishing hotels and resorts, commercial use of firewood and natural water resources, widening of roads, movement of vehicular traffic at night through them and drastic change of agriculture systems.
The guidelines also covered organic farming, use of polythene bags by shopkeepers and use of renewable energy sources and suggested that states and Union Territories come up with a proposal to establish eco-sensitive zones in all protected areas, duly indicating the activities to be permitted, regulated and prohibited.
Following this a public consultation was held for the first time in 2011 for Bandipur and an eco-sensitive zone of between 3 kms and 7 kms was notified. Later, in 2014-15, similar zones were proposed for the Cauvery, Kudre mukh, Mukambika, Someshwara, Talcauvery, Brahmagiri and Pushpa giri protected areas and were notified over 100 meters to 2 kms following the approval by the MoEF and CC.
Similarly, a proposal for a 260 sq km eco-sensitve zone for Bannerghatta was sent in June 2016, covering 100 meters to 4.5 kms, but in October 2018, it was revised to cover 100 meters to 1 km, bringing down the area covered to 150 sq. kms. This has clearly been done to help the stone quarries’ lobby.
The action of the government is anti- environment and likely to aggravate man- elephant conflict. Not surprisingly, it has earned the wrath of activists and NGOs. But the most important thing to remember here is that until the ESZ is notified, 10 kms around the protected areas will continue to be treated as an eco-sensitive zone under the MoEF and CC guidelines.
(The writer is former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka)...