NEW DELHI: To facilitate faster clearances to projects, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has decided to do away with mandatory National Wildlife Board clearance for projects within a 10-km radius of wildlife parks and sanctuaries and has left it to the states to decide eco-sensitive zones (ESZ).
The decision will apply where projects need Central approval and will involve some 600 protected sites in the country. The MoEF wants the ESZ to be site-specific based on assessment by respective states rather than putting a single bracket of 10 km. This means the states can take a call on construction around protected areas and the Centre will have no role to play in it.
The Supreme Court-appointed a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in 2012, which advocated that ESZs should range from 100 metres to 2 km. In an affidavit filed in the apex court last week, the government turned down the CEC’s recommendation and preferred that declaration of ESZs around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks be site-specific.
Justifying the move, the ministry said that experience shows that one size doesn’t fit all and many national parks have human habitation on the fringes, which means you cannot restrict all development activity there.
According to a ministry official, the states are not open to declaring 10 km eco-sensitive zone as they think this will hamper development. The official also claimed that many states are not in favour of an ESZ at all, as their projects will have to come to the Central government for clearance. The main motive behind declaring ESZ was to create a shock absorber for protected areas.
The government in the last four months has diluted several green norms. The forest clearance has already been delinked from wildlife clearance for areas around wildlife zones. The ministry has already done away with the need for consent of tribals for mining projects, and plans to completely do away with tribal consent under Forest Rights Act 2006 for all other projects.