16 Eco-Sensitive Zones proposed around sanctuaries in Maharashtra

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ctivities such as commercial mining and setting up saw mills, large hydroelectric projects and pollution-causing industries may soon be banned in the eco-sensitive zones around the main sanctuaries in the state, including the Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve, Melghat tiger reserve and Sanjay Gandhi national park in Mumbai.

The state forest department has proposed 16 eco-sensitive zones around its wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, as the February 15 deadline set by the Union ministry of environment and forests to declare these zones draws near. Proposals are also being prepared for the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary, Mayureshwar wildlife sanctuary, New Gangewadi sanctuary and the Great Indian Bustard sanctuary in the Pune circle.

A forest department official from the Nagpur head office said that 1,346 sq km of the Tadoba Andhari (in Chandrapur) eco-sensitive zone will occupy a radius ranging from three km to 16 km, covering 118 villages. “Similar proposals for other sanctuaries and national parks in the state, including the Melghat tiger reserve in Amravati and Sanjay Gandhi national park, have been sent to Mumbai for approval. They will then be sent to the environment ministry, which would declare the eco-sensitive zones,” the official said.

He added that activities prohibited in these zones include commercial mining, setting up saw mills and industries causing pollution (water, air, soil, noise), commercial use of firewood, setting up large hydroelectric projects, use or production of hazardous substances, tourism activities, such as flying over the national park area by any aircraft, and discharge of effluents and solid waste into natural water bodies or terrestrial area.

The Melghat tiger reserve, which includes five protected areas of Gugamal national park, Wan wildlife sanctuary, Melghat sanctuary, Narnala sanctuary and Ambabarwa wildlife sanctuary, has an eco-sensitive zone spreading over 1,268 sq km. The land within the 10-km boundary from all sides of this tiger reserve has been proposed as an eco-sensitive zone. The area covers 118 villages.

Similarly, the 30-sq km eco-sensitive zone in the Sanjay Gandhi national park will occupy a radius ranging from 100 m to two km, covering 37 villages.

Proposals for eco-sensitive zones around sanctuaries and national parks falling in the Pune circle, which includes Pune and Solapur districts, are under scrutiny. Forest department officials here have listed four important sanctuaries and parks, including Bhimashankar, with an eco-sensitive zone ranging from 0 km to 10 km, and Mayureshwar, with an eco-sensitive zone ranging from 0 m to 100 m. The New Gangewadi sanctuary and the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Solapur district both have eco-sensitive zones ranging from 0 m to 500 m, officials said.

“Once the Union government approves these zones, we will prepare a master plan and form a committee to regulate or prohibit activities in these zones,” a Pune circle official said.

He added that it had been necessary to send these proposals to the Union government before the deadline. “The ministry said in its latest directive that in states that fail to submit the proposals, the prohibition on activities as per the 2011 guidelines would stand implemented within 10 km of national parks and sanctuaries. Earlier, some governments had raised concerns over the 10 km range from the protected area boundary, as human habitation and other activities would come under the purview of the eco-sensitive zone,” he said. The 2002 guidelines said that land within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries should be notified as eco-fragile zones.”

Hence, it was decided that delineation of the eco-sensitive zone should be site-specific and relate to regulation, rather than prohibition, of specific activities.

The proposed eco-sensitive zones around the north and south strips of the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary, in the Ambegaon and Khed talukas of Pune district, cover an area of 10 km each. The eco-sensitive zone outside other parts of the sanctuary may vary in size depending upon topography and type of vegetation, among other parameters.

[alert type=”notice”]Original Story: Times of India, Photo: Mahesh Patil | Flickr[/alert]