At a time when the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) is facing threats due to construction activities and illegal entry, the proposal for declaring an Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around the national park is still in cold storage.
Though the proposal has reached the state government sometime back, it has not been sent to the Union Government, for unknown reasons. The Forest Department has been on a mission to protect the national park. Earlier, there were demands for a wider buffer zone for the sanctuary. It has been pointed out that a buffer zone of merely 44 sq kms would not be sufficient for a tiger reserve like Periyar. Considering the demand from various corners, the government later on decided to add 148 sq kms from the Ranni Division to the PTR. However, the demand for the ESZ has not been considered till now.
“According to an earlier Supreme Court verdict, national parks and sanctuaries can have an ESZ for up to 10 kms from its boundary depending on other parameters. The declaration should be made by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). It’s against this backdrop that the proposal for an ESZ for the PTR has been made before the state government,” said a Forest Department official.
In a report to the state government, PTR officials have earlier pointed out a couple of major issues that could prove to be harmful for the sanctuary. Increased human interface, illegal trekking activities and entry by outsiders leading to man-animal conflicts were some of the threats mentioned in the report.
Further it was pointed out that certain eco-tourism initiatives force animals in Periyar to migrate to surrounding forest regions which are less protected and have frequent human intervention. The wildlife tourism, if not implemented in a proper manner, could prove harmful to the tiger population.
“There was a proposal to notify certain area as ESZ under the Environment Protection Act. Though such a proposal came for consideration before the state government, so far it has not been forwarded to the MoEF for its approval,” said Chief Wildlife Warden V Gopinathan.
(Written under the aegis of CSE media fellowship)