The Gujarat Government is all set to introduce the modified land use policy for the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around Gir sanctuary, following a recent interim order by the Gujarat High Court (HC) conditionally lifting the ban on non-agricultural work in the 10-km radius of the Saurashtra region that comprise Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Paniya Sanctuary and Mitiyala Sanctuary. With the modified policy, non-agricultural development work will be possible in these regions with the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden of Gujarat.
Government sources said that the modified policy was ready and it will be promulgated once the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in the region due to the Talala assembly bypoll is over. Voting for Talala bypoll is due on May 16. Incidentally, a separate petition challenging the state government’s authority to frame policy for the Eco-Sensitive Zone is pending before another bench of HC. In its order dated May 4, HC has allowed the state government to modify its policy for ESZ which will be subject to, among other things, the final outcome of the separate petition.
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For ESZs, state governments have to send proposals of its sanctuaries and national parks to the Central Government, under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act. Till the ESZs for such sanctuaries and national parks are not notified by the Central Government, the area around 10-km of these sanctuaries and national parks are deemed to be ESZs and for any developmental work in it, a no-objection certificate from the Chief Wildlife Warden is mandatory, a government release issued on Tuesday said.
However, acting on a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in 2014, HC had sought details of the various development works, permissions and encroachments in the ESZ of Amreli district from the Gujarat government. HC had also sought a policy for ESZ of Gir.
Subsequently, on July 1, 2015, the Gujarat government had produced its policy for the ESZs of Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Paniya Sanctuary and Mitiyala Sanctuary before HC. However, the next day on July 2, HC had stayed any non-agricultural work in these regions.
During subsequent hearings of the PIL, the Gujarat government had represented various practical difficulties being faced by the people of the regions and sought to lift the ban on non-agricultural work there.
Following this, in its interim order on May 4, HC had suggested certain modifications to the policy.
In the same order, the court had permitted Gujarat government to promulgate its modified land use policy by issuing a Government Resolution. The court also ordered that after the promulgation of the modified policy, the HC ban imposed on July 2, 2015, would be lifted.
A senior officer in the government associated with the development said, “The new policy is being introduced soon. In fact, it’s ready. But we cannot declare it due to the Model Code of Conduct in force in those regions due to the upcoming Talala by-election. Once the election is over, the policy will be declared.”