Cracking the whip, the environment ministry has threatened to disallow any commercial activity within 10 sq kms of 650 national parks and sanctuaries --- home to endangered species of India --- if they failed to notify ecologically sensitive areas.
The ministry in 2011 declared its intention to have eco-fragile zones as part of wildlife conservation strategy for safety of the animals as “shock-absorbers” for protected areas.
In 2005, he asked the state governments to notify 10 sq kms of area around these wildlife areas as eco-fragile zone where no commercial activity would be allowed.
In 2011, the ministry issued guidelines for declaring the zones mentioning the commercial activities allowed and prohibited such as mining.More than ten years down the line, only few states such as Haryana, Gujarat, Mizoram and Assam had submitted proposals to declare the zones in the wildlife areas covering 4.86% of the India geographical landscape.
Some states like Goa refused to accept the proposal saying it would hamper its economic growth and termed its interference with the powers of the state government.
As the result of the delay, some protected areas are now part of urban localities such as Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai and Guindy National Park in Tamil Nadu, thereby making declaration difficult.
The period of ambiguity has witnessed mushrooming of resorts, hotels and commercial establishments around many protected areas.
Environment secretary V Rajagopalan in a letter to state chief secretaries has asked to submit proposals for declaring eco-sensitive zones latest by February 15 as last opportunity before the ministry cracks the whip.
“In case the state and union territories fail to submit the proposals, the activities prohibited as per the 2001 guidelines would stand implemented within 10 kms of national parks and sanctuaries,” he said.
His letter comes after the environment ministry rejected suggestions of Supreme Court panel to have different levels of eco-sensitive zones depending on the geographical spread of a protected area. The view was supported by many state governments.