Eco-Sensitive Zones : Supreme Court Modified Its Previous Judgment
The Supreme Court of India has modified its earlier judgment that mandated a minimum one-kilometre eco-sensitive zone around protected forests, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries across the country.
- In June 2022, the SC ordered that ESZs of a minimum of one kilometer should be declared around protected forests, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries across the country.
- The court had said that ESZs would act as a “shock absorber” for the protected areas and prevent encroachment, illegal mining, construction, and other activities that could harm the environment and wildlife.
- The court had also directed the Centre and the States to notify the ESZs within 6 months and file compliance reports.
- Minimum ESZ distance : 1 km ESZ cannot be uniform across the country and has to be “protected area-specific”.
- Applicability of order Applied universally to all protected areas Not applicable to ESZs for which draft and final notifications have been issued by MoEF&CC and in respect of proposals.
- Mining allowed Not specified, but implied to be allowed within ESZ No mining is allowed, either within national parks and sanctuaries or in a 1 km radius.
- Any developmental activities undertaken within ESZs should follow the MoEF&CC 2011 guidelines and provisions of the 2022 Office Memorandum by MoEF&CC
- The National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) of the MoEFCC stipulated that state governments should declare land falling within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as eco-fragile zones or Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.
- 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”.