Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ)

Eco-Sensitive Zones – ESZ is fragile areas around protected areas declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC). 

The topic holds relevance from the current affairs or general awareness point of view of various competitive exams as well as the IAS exam

Eco-Sensitive Zones – Why in the news?

Controversy over proposed ESZ around Wayanad wildlife sanctuary in Kerala. 

  1. What happened?
    • On January 28, the MoEFCC published a draft notification to declare an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of 118.59 sq km around the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.
  2. View of Government:
    • State Government is of the view that densely populated areas should be excluded while measuring for Eco-sensitive zones, hence, it wants the measuring to be 88.2 sq km around the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
  3. Concerns of Farmers:
    • The lives of thousands of farmers on the sanctuary fringes, spread over six villages, would be badly affected.
    • Also, the farmers would not be able to use their land and trees planted without the permission of forest officials.
    • Construction of roads, houses and all other development activities in the Eco-Sensitive Zones would be affected.

Aspirants can check out information on some more important zones created by the Government of India:

Facts related to Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) will assist candidates to prepare for the upcoming UPSC Prelims and Mains examination.

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

  1. Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) are also known as Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs).
  2. Eco-sensitive zones are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  3. The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  4. As per the National Board for Wildlife NBWL, the delineation of eco-sensitive zones have to be site-specific, and the activities should be regulative in nature and not prohibitive unless required. 
  5. The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries to minimize the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.
  6. They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
Looking for study material to prepare for the upcoming Civil Services Exam? 

Refer to the links below and complement your UPSC exam preparation:

Eco-Sensitive Zones Background

  1. National Wildlife Action Plan NWAP 2002-2016 indicates that the area outside protected areas networks are vital ecological corridor links and must be protected to prevent the isolation of fragments of biodiversity which will not survive in the long run. 
  2. Section 3 of the Environment protection rules gives power to the Central Government i.e. the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to take all measures that it feels are necessary for protecting and improving the quality of the environment and to prevent and control environmental pollution. 
  3. However, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  4. Besides, Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA) states that the central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carry on certain operations or processes on the basis of certain considerations.
  5. To meet this objective, the government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall be/ not be carried out subject to certain safeguards.
  6. However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that the Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall be carried out or shall not, subject to certain safeguards.
  7. Thus, the government came up with the concept of Eco-Sensitive Zones.
  8. The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones (NDZs).

Extent of Eco-Sensitive Zone

  1. An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area, as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  2. In case of places with sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, even areas beyond 10 km width can also be included in the eco-sensitive zone.
  3. Moreover, even in the context of a particular Protected Area, the distribution of an area of ESZ and the extent of regulation may not be uniform all around, and it could be of variable width and extent.

Eco-Sensitive Zones – ESZ Significance 

  • Areas declared as Eco-Sensitive Zone would minimize the impact of urbanisation and other developmental activities.
  • The protected areas are based on the core and buffer model of management, through which local area communities are also protected and benefitted.
  • The Eco-sensitive zones around protected areas,  wildlife sanctuaries and national parks create some kind of ‘Shock Absorber’.
  • ESZs help in in-situ conservation, which deals with the conservation of an endangered species in its natural habitat, for example, the conservation of the One-horned Rhino of Kaziranga National Park, Assam. 
  • Eco-Sensitive Zones minimize forest depletion and man-animal conflict. 

For information on Indian Rhinoceros visit the linked page.

Eco-Sensitive Zones – Activities Permitted

  • Activities Permitted under Eco-Sensitive Zones –  Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.
  • Activities prohibited under ESZs – commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), the establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Activities under regulation-  Felling of trees, the establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.

 Questions like below have been asked in the previous year question papers:

With reference to ‘Eco-Sensitive Zones’, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. Eco-Sensitive Zones are the areas that are declared under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  2. The purpose of the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones is to prohibit all kinds of human activities, in those zones, except agriculture.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Hence, candidates should practise UPSC IAS Questions along with test series for effective preparation. 

UPSC Preparation:

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