Mains Daily Question
Feb. 20, 2024

Q2. What are Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)? Despite their importance, explain how Eco-Sensitive Zones pose certain challenges. (10M, 150W)

Model Answer

Approach to the answer 

Understanding and structuring the answer: The demand of the question is to explain about the eco-sensitive zones, their importance and associated challenges.


Type 1: Explain about the Eco-sensitive zones and 

Type 2: Mention about any events associated with eco-sensitive zones like protests etc..


Heading 1: Eco-sensitive zones - mention about the area, prohibited activities, etc. 

Heading 2: Importance of eco-sensitive zones

Heading 3: Challenges associated with eco-sensitive zones

Way forward: Suggest steps to address the various problems associated with the eco-sensitive zones


Answer: Ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) are zones of transition from an area of lower protection to an area of higher protection like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Last year, farmers' protests erupted in Kerala against the Supreme Court’s order to establish 1-km Eco-Sensitive Zones around all protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.


Eco-Sensitive Zones:


  • Boundary limit: As per the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, land within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is to be notified as eco-fragile zones or Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ).
  • Sensitive corridors: Areas beyond 10-km can also be notified by the Union government as ESZs, if they hold larger ecologically important ‘sensitive corridors’.
  • Prohibited activities: Various activities are prohibited in an ESZ, such as commercial mining, saw mills, commercial use of wood, etc., apart from regulated activities like felling of trees. 
  • Permitted activities: Various activities are permitted in the ESZs like, ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, among others.


Importance of Eco-Sensitive Zones:


  • Shock absorbers: ESZs are created as “shock absorbers” for the protected areas, to minimize the negative impact on the “fragile ecosystems” by certain human activities taking place nearby.
  • Transition zone: ESZs are meant to act as a transition zone from areas requiring higher protection to those requiring lesser protection.  
  • Purpose: ESZs are not meant to hamper the daily activities of people living in the vicinity, but are meant to guard the protected areas and ‘refine the environment around them’


Challenges Associated with ESZs:


  • Adversely affect the developmental works: Many state governments have pointed out that the 10 km boundary would encompass many habitations and important cities; and would adversely affect the developmental works.
  • Loss of livelihood:  Buffer zones around protected areas already restrict so many activities, creation of ESZs will only worsen the sustenance and livelihood of poor farmers.
  • Lack of Awareness: Many people, including local communities, might not be aware of the ecological significance of these zones, leading to unintentional harm.
  • Inadequate Enforcement: Weak implementation of regulations and lack of monitoring can result in violations and damage to sensitive zones.


Way Forward


  • Community Engagement: It is important to involve local communities in the decision-making process for the management of ESZs.
  • Empowering Gram Sabha: Gram sabha must be empowered with to take decisions in case of developmental projects
  • Alternate Livelihood support: It is important to provide alternative livelihood options for local communities who depend on the resources found in ESZs for their livelihoods.
  • Promoting Eco Restoration: Afforestation and reforestation of degraded forest, regeneration of lost habitats, reducing climate change impacts by promoting carbon footprints and through education, is needed.
Subjects : Environment
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