THE MINISTRY of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on Friday declared areas around Tungareshwar and Tansa wildlife sanctuaries in Maharashtra as eco sensitive zones (ESZ).
The eco sensitive zones will comprise an area of 67.26 sq km, extending from 100 m to 4 km around the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary; and 490.29 sq km, extending from 250 m to 9 km around the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary.
ESZ serve as “shock absorber” for protected areas. The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to minimise negative impact on the fragile eco system around. Declaring an area ESZ puts restrictions on mining, quarrying, setting up industries and construction.
Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, with around 85.70 sq km of protected area, is connected to other protected natural areas like the Nagla block of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is an important protected area supporting a large number of flora and fauna and is home to mammalian species like leopard, wild boar, four-headed antelope, barking deer, langurs, bonnet and rhesus macaques, among other animals.
In January, NGO Vanashakti had petitioned Bombay High Court for the creation 10-km wide buffer zone around the Tungareshwar sanctuary. It had said that stone quarrying, construction, land filling and deforestation around the sanctuary is degrading the ecosystem.
“This is a watered down proposal. However, its a start and declaring at least around 68 km as ESZ is better than nothing. The demand was to create 260 sq km of area around the sanctuary as ESZ,” said Stalin D, director of Vanashakti.
An expert committee had suggested that fragmented forest patches observed in the map on northwest side of Tungareshwar sanctuary be included in the ESZ. However, the state government explained its inability to do so, while citing that the area is surrounded by densely-populated municipalities and that the proposed ESZ boundary has been prepared based on the feasibility and public consultation.
The Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary is home to critically endangered Forest Owlet and also houses Tansa lake in 304.81 sq km of protected area. Cases of illegal mining had been reported from the sanctuary.