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Monday, June 25, 2012

Pench eco-sensitive zone proposal ready

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jun 25, 2012, 12.34AM IST NAGPUR: The territorial, wildlife and revenue department officials seem to have geared up to finalize the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) proposals mandatory under the Environment Protection Act 1986. With ESZ proposals for Nagzira and New Nagzira wildlife sanctuaries and Navegaon National Park and New Navegaon Wildlife Sanctuary already with the government, officials have finalized a similar proposal for the Pench Tiger Reserve. The proposal of Pench was finalized at a meeting on June 22. It includes 49,466ha land with 55 villages, 19,608ha reserve forest (RF), 4,024ha protected forest (PF), 15,124ha Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) area and 10,709 hectare non-forest land. "We were working on it since March and till now four meetings were held. The Pench proposal will be sent to the government through the chief wildlife warden soon," forest officials told TOI. "The 'delineation of ESZs' would be site specific and relates to regulation, prohibition and permission. Once the ESZs are notified by the government, highly polluting units will not be allowed in such zones. If such units already exist they will be allowed to run till the licence exists," they said. Deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) for Gondia said the ESZ proposal for Navegaon and Nagzira is not as per the 10km radius but is site specific depending on the land use pattern. "We started preparing the proposal in January and submitted it in April," Ramarao said. The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has reiterated its request to the states to declare 10km area around the national park and sanctuaries as ESZs. The MoEF had issued fresh guidelines on February 9, 2011 to all the chief wildlife wardens and PCCFs reminding them about the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) decision on March 17, 2005, on delineation of ESZs. There is also a Supreme Court order December 4, 2006 on a PIL filed by the Goa Foundation on the issue of declaring ESZs. The apex court had also directed the MoEF to give a final opportunity to the states to respond to the NBWL decision in four weeks. However, very few states like Haryana, Gujarat, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam and Goa forwarded ESZs proposals. In Maharashtra, after court orders, the then PCCF B Majumdar had sent proposals for declaring ESZs around 41 PAs. The first proposal was of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Borivili, but it was rejected looking into the cluster of buildings and apartments that have come up near the park. Of the remaining 40 PAs, the Great India Bustard (GIB) sanctuary in Solapur and Tungareshwar was not recommended for ESZ due to similar problems. Proposals for ESZs for around 38 sanctuaries were referred back by the government. Since then officials sat on the proposals. In November last, principal secretary (forests) Praveen Pardeshi initiated the process and accordingly things have started moving. The government has already declared buffer zones for three tiger reserves - Tadoba, Pench and Melghat. Talking to TOI, wildlife expert Kishor Rithe said the purpose of declaring ESZs around PAs is to create some kind of 'shock absorber' for the protected areas (PAs). They would also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection. Officials said many existing PAs have already undergone tremendous development in close vicinity to their boundaries. The best example is of the Adani power plant near the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary and widening of NH6 and NH7 by the NHAI near Navegaon National Park and Pench.

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