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Govt reviews proposals to limit development activities around wildlife zones

NEW DELHI: The environment ministry has received 280 proposals from states to secure areas around national parks and sanctuaries as eco-sensitive zones that would restrict damaging activities such as mining around these wildlife zones. 

The proposals for declaring eco-sensitive zones around wildlife parks and sanctuaries comes after goading by the environment ministry, which itself has been pushed into a corner in a case before the Supreme Court. 

Newly-appointed director general of forests Kantharaj Jude Sekar on Friday took stock of the proposals with state 
forestry department heads along with other issues. 

While the idea to have these eco-sensitive zones, which reduce the pressure of development activities in the vicinity of 
wildlife zones, was mooted in the National Wildlife Action Plan of 2002, it did not find favour with states. While some objected to it outright, others contended that putting a protective ring around the parks for up to a 10-km limit was impractical. Geographically smaller states were particularly unhappy with this proposal. 

In 2005, the minimum 10-km criterion was dropped but the states refused to budge. The Centre too remained ambivalent on it for long. However, a Supreme Court case brought the issue back to life, with the courts over time pushing the government to act. 

In 2011, the environment ministry put up specific guidelines for preparing, receiving and approving proposals for such eco-sensitive zones from state governments. A deadline of February 2013 for the states to submit proposals was extended to May 15. 

But even with the extended deadline, proposals for only 280 of the 618 national parks and sanctuaries have been received so far. Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, 
Uttarakhand and Delhi are yet to submit any proposals. 

The review meeting by the top forestry boss is expected to go through the proposals and could ask for a revision. The ministry has also set up an internal committee to review the proposals received.

The Times of India (25-05-2013)