The environment ministry has received an unusual request from India’s major steel producer Tata Steel: to reduce the eco-sensitive zone around Dalma wildlife sanctuary near Jamshedpur to just 500 meters from the 10km norm.
The company’s concern is that enforcing the 10km wide green ring around the sanctuary would result in restrictions on its industrial activity in the Jamshedpur steel plant.
The company wants the ministry to implement the recommendations of the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on declaring eco-sensitive zones around 650 protected areas across the country.
Dalma as per the CEC definition falls under the category of a small park and should have a protective green ring of just 500 meters. Furthermore, the company believes that having a uniform eco-sensitive zone norm of 10km is unreasonable.
“We have already rejected the CEC recommendation and have asked the states to implement the ministry’s norm on eco-sensitive zones,” a senior ministry official said. The ministry recently gave three months to the states to notify eco-sensitive zones.
While not rejecting the deman outright, the ministry has reduced the area to a 5km radius. “Further reduction in the eco-sensitive zone around Dalma may not be possible,” a senior official said, while responding to the company’s demand for reducing the zone to 500 meters.
The ministry believes that if Tata Steel's demand is accepted, similar pleas may be made by other industries thereby defeating the purpose of having eco-sensitive zones around national parks and sanctuaries. The Goa government wants eco-sensitive zones to be scrapped saying it would impact its industry in an adverse manner.
The ministry has backing of the Jharkhand forest department which believes that further reduction in the eco-sensitive zone would jeopardise water sources for the Jamshedpur town inside the Dalma sanctuary. The department also says that having a 5km eco-sensitive zone would help in preserving the ecology of the reserve.