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Ecosensitive zones (ESZ)

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Ecosensitive zones (ESZ):


Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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).

What’s the issue?

  • The present draft issued by the MOEFCC notifies 118.59 sq km around the WWS as ESZ.
  • But, Kerala wants ESZ measuring 88.2 sq km around the WWS. The government is of the view that densely populated areas should be excluded while notifying ESZs.

What are the concerns?

  • Such a move would badly affect the lives of thousands of farmers on the fringes of the sanctuary spread over six villages under Mananthavady and Sulthan Bathery taluks.
  • All development in eco-sensitive zones, including construction of roads and houses, would be affected and farmers would not be able to cut trees they had planted on their land without the permission of forest officials.

Rationale behind declaring it as an ESZ:

The lives of farmers on the forest fringes has become miserable owing to the increasing incidents of wild animal attacks.

About the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary:

  1. The sanctuary is a component of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (5,520 sq km) and is a vital component of the Elephant Reserve No. 7 of South India.
  2. It is the only sanctuary of Kerala where sighting of four-horned antelope has been reported.
  3. Presence of Egyptian vulture, Himalayan griffon, and Cinereous vultures are also reported in the sanctuary and the two species of vultures, red-headed and white-backed vultures, once common in Kerala, are now restricted to the Wayanad plateau.
  4. The Nagarhole-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Wayanad forest complex is also one of the most important tiger habitats in the country. Recent estimation of tigers, using camera traps, has indicated the presence of 79 tigers in the sanctuary.
  5. The forests of the wildlife division form the major catchments for the tributaries of the Kabani river system.

What are the Eco-sensitive Zones (ESZs)?

  1. Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  2. 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.
  3. They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
  4. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  5. An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  6. Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.


Prelims Link:

  1. How an eco-sensitive zone is declared?
  2. How is it declared?
  3. Boundaries.
  4. About Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
  5. About Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

Mains Link:

Discuss the need for eco sensitive zones around the protected areas.

Sources: the Hindu.