Centre permitted 43 projects in eco-sensitive zones in the last 5 years

Experts believe it is imperative that we avoid and explore alternatives to projects that disrupt wildlife habitats and corridors

An eco-sensitive zone around the Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary. (HT File Photo)

The Centre received 53 proposals for projects in eco-sensitive zones in the last five years, of which 43 were granted environmental clearances, minister of state for environment Ashwini Kumar Choubey informed the Rajya Sabha. Eco-sensitive zones are those that fall within a 10-km radius of protected areas.

During the last five years, 689 project proposals for projects in protected areas were accorded permission by the Standing Committee of the NBWL, of which 231 were permitted last year, Choubey said.

The minister was replying to questions raised by Trinamool Congress MP Jawhar Sircar on the number of applications received in the last five years, year-wise, for environmental clearances of projects in eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) and protected areas (PA); the number of approvals granted during the last five years, year-wise; and the number of applications received similarly and cleared by the Wildlife Protection Board during the last five years, year-wise.

“As notified vide ministry’s office memorandum dated 17.05.2022, projects/activities in notified Eco-Sensitive Zones around Protected Areas shall be regulated and governed by the concerned ESZ notification. Such regulated activities, if covered under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 as amended, shall require prior environmental clearance as per the provisions of the said notification whereas, if the ESZ is not notified or is in draft stage, prior environmental clearance shall be required for projects/activities located within the default ESZ, i.e., zone within 10km of the boundaries of the protected areas including National Parks and Sanctuaries,” Choubey said.

“Such projects shall require consideration by the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL)/Standing Committee for National Board of Wildlife (SCNBWL). Accordingly, proposals are granted environmental clearance after due approval by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), constituted by the Ministry for the purpose,” he added.

Experts believe it is imperative that we avoid and explore alternatives to projects that disrupt wildlife habitats and corridors.

“Currently, just over 5% of our landmass is designated as Wildlife Protected Areas. However, many of these areas exist as small, isolated pockets surrounded by human settlements and infrastructure. A significant portion of our wildlife resides outside these protected areas and does not even fall under the jurisdiction of wildlife boards. This situation poses a grave threat to many species, leaving them vulnerable to extinction. It is imperative that we avoid and explore alternatives to projects that disrupt wildlife habitats and corridors. This includes measures to protect and preserve the natural habitats and migration routes essential for the survival of various species,” said Debadityo Sinha, lead – climate and ecosystems, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

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