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12 years and running: JK late in declaring Eco-Sensitive Zones around parks, sanctuaries

Srinagar, Dec 21: Despite Supreme Court directions, the state’s progress in declaring several national parks and sanctuaries as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) has been far from satisfactory.

The ESZ are formed to serve as “shock absorber” for protected areas.

The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to minimise negative impact on the fragile ecosystem around.

Also the activities conducted in eco-sensitive zones are regulated under the Environment (Protection Act) of 1986 and no polluting industry or mine is allowed to come up in such areas.

Industries classified as prohibited under guidelines for declaration of eco-sensitive zones around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are not allowed to operate in these zones.

In 2006, the Supreme Court had directed all the states to safeguard protected areas by surrounding them with a buffer of ecologically fragile areas or ESZs.

On December 11, 2018, the apex court noticed that and ordered, “Under the circumstances, we direct that an area of 10 kilometre around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries be declared as ESZs by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The declaration be made by the ministry at the earliest.”

However, a decade after the Supreme Court envisaged declaring areas within 10 km of the boundary of national parks and sanctuaries as Eco-Sensitive Zones, several parks and sanctuaries from the state are yet to be included.

The protected areas excluded under the eco-sensitive zones are Hemis High Altitude National Park, Kishtewar National Park, Changthang Sanctuary, Hokersar Sanctuary, and Trikuta Sanctuary.

State Wildlife authorities said the work on demarcating the ecologically-sensitive zones around national parks and sanctuaries has already begun and is likely to be completed soon.

Environmental lawyer, Nadeem Qadri said, “We have already prepared a draft plan for the protected areas. However, the delay is on part of the Central Government. Also, there’s huge political intervention delaying the entire initiative.”

Chief Wildlife Warden Jammu and Kashmir, Rashid Naqash, said, “Proposals for all National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries have been forwarded by the Government to the ministry of Environment Forests and climate change for declaring and notifying eco-sensitive zones around these areas.”