BENGALURU: In Karnataka, Eco Sensitive Zones (ESZ) that were notified (draft) around prominent tiger reserves and national parks are being redrawn due to demands from political, industrial, mining and resort or hotel representatives.Even after the draft notification was issued by the Centre, the state government has changed its stand on Dandeli, Anshi, Bannerghatta and Nagarhole among others. According to forest officials and activists, the final notification has been delayed with proposals now being prepared with cuts, reductions and exclusions.
Till date, of the 30 draft notifications issued, 17 protected areas have received the final ESZ tag. The final notification for the remaining 13 has been delayed for various reasons with some directed to submit a fresh proposal. Some of the important critical tiger habitats are now under intense pressure from various stakeholders to bring in changes in ESZ areas.
In the 27th meeting of the expert committee on final declaration of ESZ, the state was asked to submit a fresh proposal for Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. P Ravi, Additional Chief Secretary who apprised the committee, said the Buffer Area of Nagarhole had been declared as ESZ with a large number of villages falling in this area.
So, the expert committee told the state representative they could explore to enhance the ESZ outside the buffer area of the tiger reserve and submit a new proposal. According to forest officials, the reduction in ESZ area and exclusion of villages was due to public demand and the cabinet sub-committee on ESZ. In the case of Dandeli and Anshi PAs too, the government has submitted a new proposal with a massive decrease in ESZ area from 1,201.94 sqkm to 312 sqkm.
Wildlife activist Manjunath said, “This area has fallen prey to the timber and hospitality lobby. The extent of ESZ has been reduced and now varies between 0-4.5km. On the western and northern sides of the PA, no ESZ has been proposed. Further, Joida taluk where most resorts, hotels are coming up - has been excluded from the ESZ.”
Bannerghatta National Park too is badly hit, pandering to the needs of stone quarrying and crushing industry located in its ESZ area, a senior forest official said. “The state government has now suggested that the ESZ extent be brought down from 10km to 100m while area reduced from 269 to 181 sqkm. With this, there is almost one third reduction in the ESZ area. The proposals in the draft have seen such a big change that most of the villages that were included earlier have been left out.”
Wildlife activist G Veeresh laments, “Presently, the modified ESZ looks like a snake without teeth with the government drastically reducing the ESZ areas. Most ESZ areas have been reduced to help people who are involved in non-forest activities. It is basically to help mining, big resort owners, industrialists and timber merchants.”Despite repeated calls, the state forest minister was unavailable for comment.