Context: Kerala Chief Minister has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister to allay the apprehension of the people in Wayanad over the recent draft notification of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) that envisages a buffer zone around the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS).
- State government had prepared recommendations for notifying eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around 21 protected areas in December 2019. According to the amended proposal for draft notification, the ESZ measures 88.2 sq km around the WWS.
- The present draft issued by the MOEFCC notifies 118.59 sq km around the WWS as ESZ.
What are Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)?
- ESZs are notified by MoEFCC, Government of India underEnvironment (Protection) Act 1986.
- Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas are areas within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
- In case of places with sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, even area beyond 10 km width can also be included in the eco-sensitive zone.
- The basic aim behind notifying ESZs is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.
Activities in these Areas are categorized as ‘Prohibited, Regulated and Permitted’ activities.
- Prohibited activities: Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), 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.
- Regulated activities: Felling of trees, 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.
- Permitted activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.
About Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS)
- It is the only sanctuary of Kerala where sighting of four-horned antelope has been reported.
- The Nagarhole-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Wayanad forest complex is also one of the most important tiger habitats in the country.
- The forests of the wildlife division form the major catchments for the tributaries of the Kabani river system, which is the lifeline of the eastern portion of the Wayanad plateau and the adjoining plains of Karnataka.
- Older than the Himalaya mountains, the Western Ghats is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
- The Ghats extend from Dang in Maharashtra-Gujarat to a place near Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, along the western coast.
- The site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern.
Note: Ecologically Sensitive Areas are different from Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)
- For “Ecologically Sensitive Areas’ refer 22nd May 2020 file.