At a time when the Environment Ministry wants states not to allow activity within a 10 km radius of protected areas,the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee has suggested that the no-activity zone be restricted to between 2 km and 100 m.
A note by CEC member secretary M A Jiwarajka submitted to the SC said the safety zone in respect of protected areas falling in Category-A (above 500 sq km) and Category-B (between 200 and 500 sq km) may compromise all the area falling within a distance of 2 km and 1 km respectively from the boundaries of protected areas. Such distances in respect of protected areas in Category-C (between 100 and 200 sq km) and Category-D (up to 100 sq km) may be kept at 500 and 100m respectively, the note added.
Senior wildlife and forest officials of Orissa,however,said reducing the safety zone size may harm wildlife. The rising elephant deaths in Orissa is a matter of concern. The reduction may impact their survival. We would certainly keep the MoEF informed about our position on this, said an official. Incidentally,Orissa is yet to demarcate the 10-km zone in several of its 20 protected areas,reasoning that it would impede developmental activities.
Biswajit Mohanty,a member of the National Board for Wildlife,said they had suggested that reduction in safety zone be made site-specific,pointing out that the MoEF guideline issued last year made it clear that 10 km safety zone for protected areas needs to be followed. Reducing to 2 km and 1 km may lead to big developmental projects next to sanctuaries, he warned.
The CEC in its note reasoned that the eco-sensitive zones around most of the national parks/wildlife sanctuaries have so far not been notified. Haryana,Gujarat,Assam,Goa,Meghalaya and Mizoram have submitted proposals in this regard to the MoEF. The remaining states are yet to do so. Goa has reportedly taken the stand that no safety zone around the national park/ sanctuaries in the state is required.
Referring to the MoEFs February 2011 letter on guidelines for declaration of eco-sensitive zones around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries,the CEC said during last 10 years hardly any progress has been made with regard to notifying eco-sensitive zones. Its proposals,the note said,come in the backdrop of this inordinate delay and were an attempt to ensure that such decisions were not keep pending.
Cutting down the safety zone size,the CEC seems to believe,may see some action on the ground unlike the 10-km condition that most of the states have ignored.