KENDRAPARA:The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has declared 192 villages around Bhitarkanika National Park (BNP) and Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Kendrapara district as eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) to prevent ecological damage caused by developmental activities.
While Bhitarkanika is known as India’s second largest mangrove forest after the Sundarbans in West Bengal, Gahirmatha is the world’s largest rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles.
Chief Wildlife Warden and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Dr SS Srivastava on Monday said the new ESZ guidelines announced by the Central Government on June 16 would ensure that the activities around such areas are regulated and managed so as to act as shock absorbers to the protected areas.
“The Centre had issued a draft notification on October 21, 2014 identifying the ESZ covering 192 villages within two kms area from Bhitarkanika and invited suggestions and objections from locals,” he said. Several environmentalists and villagers submitted their suggestions, which were considered by the Government. “The ESZ varies from 560 metres to two kms in width from the boundary of Bhitarkanika and Gahirmatha covering an area of 446.4 square kms. The ESZ status would not hamper daily activities and livelihood of locals as the guidelines would be of a regulatory nature rather than prohibitive,” Srivastava said.
For effective management of the ESZ, the State Government within two years will prepare a zonal master plan after consultation with the locals.
As per the guidelines, activities like commercial mining, setting up saw mills and industries, commercial use of firewood and major hydro-power projects would be prohibited in the ESZ besides tourism activities like operation of aircraft or hot air balloon and discharge of effluents and solid waste in natural water bodies or terrestrial areas.
The activities which would be regulated in the ESZ are felling of trees, commercial use of natural water resources and running hotels and resorts. Ongoing agriculture and horticulture practices by local community, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, adoption of green technology and use of renewable energy sources would be permitted in the ESZ.
Bhitarkanika has 82 species of mangroves and a unique eco-system, criss-crossed by a network of rivers and creeks having more than 1,600 crocodiles. Besides, large number of migratory birds visit the reserve every winter.
ESZ varies from 560 metres to two kms in width from the boundary of Bhitarkanika and Gahirmatha covering an area of 446.4 square kms
Commercial mining, setting up saw mills and industries, commercial use of firewood and major hydro-power projects to be prohibited
Felling of trees, commercial use of natural water resources and running hotels and resorts to be regulated
Agriculture activities by locals, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, adoption of green technology permitted