#GS-03 Environment Conservation
- Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas are notified areas within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
- ESZs are demarcated under Environment Protection Act 1986 by MoEFCC, Government of India.
- Eco-sensitive zones around protected areas are declared with the aim of creating some kind of a ‘Shock Absorber’ for the protected area.
Restrictions in the ESZ
- All mining, quarrying, and sand mining is prohibited within the designated ESA.
- Within five years of the final notification’s issuance or the expiration of the current mining lease, whichever comes first, all active mines need to be phased out.
- It also forbids the construction of new “Red” category industries as well as further development of existing “Red” category factories within the sensitive area.
- Red category industries include operations like coal liquefaction and petrochemical manufacture which have a Pollution Index score of 60 or above.
- The building of new townships and neighbourhood initiatives will also be prohibited in the region.
- Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 which is also known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA) recognises the customary and traditional rights (both individual and collective) of forest-dwellers on forest land, including in protected areas.
- FRA is implemented to hand over the governing of more than half of India’s notified forest area to village-level institutions.
- Hence, gram sabhas have been made the statutory authorities empowered to conserve, protect and manage forests, wildlife and biodiversity lying within the traditional village boundaries.
- A new category of forests called ‘community forest resource’ (CFR) has been created for the areas under gram sabhas.
- Most of the areas that come under the ESZ will also come under gram sabha’s jurisdiction under the FRA.
- Parts of the ESZs in ten States viz., Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana, fall within the Scheduled Areas notified under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
- These areas are populated by Scheduled Tribe groups and are notified by the President under Article 244 where the Provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) 1996 apply.
- PESA also recognises gram sabhas to be the authority to safeguard and preserve community resources on forest and revenue lands in Scheduled Areas.
- However, the MoEFCC has not yet amended the Indian Forest Act 1927, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Environment (Protection) Act to comply with the PESA and FRA.
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