Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ]

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 10, 2022, 15:07

Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] are declared by the MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change).

Definition of an Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ]

Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] or Ecologically Fragile Areas are regions within 10 km distance of wildlife sanctuaries, protected areas, and national parks.

According to the Environment Protection Act of 1986, such areas should be protected by regulating activities in an attempt to minimize the negative impacts on the fragile ecosystem.

Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] Objectives

The main objective behind ESZ declaration is to build a type of shock absorber for the protected areas through management and regulation of activities around the areas.

They also create a transition zone from areas of less protection to regions involving heavy protection.

Features of Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ]

The Environment Protection laws give power to the government to take all the measures for protection and improvement of the quality of the environment and control and prevention of pollution.

An ESZ can extend up to 10 kilometres around a wildlife sanctuary or protected area. Moreover, in cases where sensitive corridors and ecologically important areas essential for landscape linkage are present, the Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] can extend beyond 10 km.

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Significance of Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ]

Activities like discharging solid or fluid waste, production of hazardous substances, commercial wood usage, set up of hydroelectric projects, operation of industries creating pollution, commercial sawmills, and mining and tourism activities such as hot air balloons over the protected area are strictly prohibited in an Eco-Sensitive Zone.

Commercial use of water, setting up of resorts and hotels, felling of trees, change in agriculture system, widening of roads and erection of cables among other activities are regulated. Organic farming, ongoing horticultural practices, use of renewable sources, rainwater harvesting, and green technology activities are all allowed in the ESZ.

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How Eco-Sensitive Zones Help In Conservation?

Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] help in the conservation of the site thereby conserving the species in the natural habitat, minimizing man-animal conflict and forest depletion, and protecting local community groups.

One of the most recent Eco-Sensitive Zones was declared in 2021 by the MoEFCC in the Wildlife Sanctuary of Wayanad in Kerala. An area spanning 118.5 sq. km has been declared as an ESZ of which 19 sq. km consists of villages around the sanctuary. While not always well received by trade interests and locals, this is a necessary concept for the protection of the country's massive ecological wealth.

While well-intentioned, there have been protests around the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones due to their impact on agriculture and business in surrounding regions.

The government and local authorities continue to explore options for monetisation and use the tourist potential of these zones to help provide for local communities.

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FAQs on Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ]

Q.1 Under which act Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] are declared?

The declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] is done by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) under the Environment Protection Act of 1986.

Q.2 Which Eco-Sensitive Zone is under conflict in Karnataka?

There is a controversy around the Eco-Sensitive Zones declared for the protection of Bannerghatta National Park in Bengaluru.

Q.3 How many Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] exist in India?

India has more than 650 protected areas across states with Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] declared around them.

Q.4 What is a zero extent Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ]?

A trend has been seen in states around the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones [ESZ] whereby they propose a zero-extent ESZ around protected areas as opposed to the criteria of 10 km or more in an attempt to avoid hampering the infrastructure development.