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Explained: Eco-Sensitive Zones - UPSC Current Affairs 

Jul 12, 2022

Explained: Eco-Sensitive Zone - UPSC Current Affairs

Here’s our today’s edition of Current Affairs Dialog box wherein we will discuss Eco-Sensitive Zones in detail.

Navigate through the article to get useful insights on the topic and enhance your civils preparation. Its relevance to the CSE syllabus is mentioned below:

For Prelims: Ecosensitive Zone, Gadgil Committee, Kasturirangan Committee, Western Ghats  

For Mains: Ecosensitive Zone, Western Ghats  


Kerala farmers continue to protest against the Supreme Court’s (SC) order to establish 1km Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) around all protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries, and national parks, out of the fear of losing their livelihood.

Probable Question

A significant increase in floods and landslides is being recorded in western ghat region. In this context, comment on the significance of the eco sensitive zone. 

About Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) is also known as Eco-Fragile Zones.
  • It comes under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), which works in accordance with the Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • The lands within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are categorized as ESZ by the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016).
  • The range of 10 km can vary depending upon their ecological importance or if they are “sensitive corridors.”
  • Such areas are supposed to act as a transition zone from areas that need more protection and those that need less.

Reasons for Creating Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • ESZ are basically created to protect and conserve the unique habitat in and around all protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries, and national parks.
  • They are created as “shock absorbers” to reduce any negative impact on fragile ecosystems or protected areas.
  • They are also meant to guard the protected areas and “refine the environment around them”.
  • It also minimizes the impact of urbanization or other development in such areas.

Activities in Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • Prohibited activities: Commercial mining, running of sawmills, polluting industries, commercial use of firewoods, mega hydel-power projects, and manufacturing of hazardous objects.
  • Regulated activities: Felling of trees (only with permission from authorities), the establishment of hotels and resorts as per approved master plan, drastic change in agricultural systems, commercial use of natural water resources including groundwater harvesting, erection of electrical cables with stress on underground cabling, fencing of building premises, widening of roads, ban on vehicular traffic at night. 
  • Permitted activities: The ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, and adoption of green technology.

Also, watch a related video on Cyclones, Thunderstorms, and Tornadoes by Himanshu Sharma Sir, our Geography faculty:

Recent Supreme Court (SC) Judgments on ESZ

  • SC passed the below-mentioned judgment due to the unbridled mining, and construction activities that caused the devastating flood in Kerala in 2018:
    • All the states are directed to have a mandatory 1-km ESZ from the demarcated boundaries of every protected forest land, national park, and wildlife sanctuary.
    • It also directed that no new permanent structure or mining will be permitted within the ESZ.

Major Committees for ESZ

The Gadgil Committee Report

The committee was appointed by the Union Environment Ministry, under the chairmanship of ecologist Madhav Gadgil, in 2010. It is also known as The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), and it proposes:

  • It classified the extensive region covering 64% of the Western Ghats, into Ecologically Sensitive Zones, called ESZ 1, ESZ 2, and ESZ 3.
  • The panel suggested the need to desist from creating new hill stations, changing the land use from farmland to non-farm land and the stoppage of diversions of rivers. 
  • The report also stated to switch over to a more sustainable farming approach in the region.
  • It proposed decentralization and more powers to local authorities.
  • It also recommended the constitution of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, with the powers under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. 
  • The Kasturirangan Committee Report

The committee was established to examine the Gadgil report, under the chairmanship of the former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan in 2012, suggesting –

  • It proposes that 37% of the total area of the Western Ghats (around 60,000 sq km), be declared an eco-sensitive area (ESA).
  • It also recommended a blanket ban on mining, quarrying, setting up of red category industries, and thermal power projects. 
  • The report stated that permission for infrastructural projects on the forest and wildlife should be studied before approval. 
  • It also stated that to build global and domestic recognition of the enormous natural wealth in the Western Ghats, the UNESCO Heritage tag is an opportunity.

Way Forward

  • The government, especially the state government, as well as people should understand the gravity of the situation, that such actions are now essential and it's not only saving the ecosystem but also our own future.
  • SC judgment is critical to implement in its entirety as many tribals and locals are indigenous and cannot be shifted and shunted out of their homes.
  • A proper balance between the interest of the public and such a fragile ecosystem should be maintained.

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