BHUBANESWAR: More than 70,000 hectare (ha) in Khurda and Cuttack districts have been proposed to be brought under the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary which abuts the Capital City and acts as its oxygen mask.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has issued the draft ESZ document for the sanctuary under which several development activities will be regulated once the final notification is brought out.
After considering the proposal submitted by the State Government, the MoEFCC has delineated the limits of the ESZ which ranges from 500 metres to 8.99 km from boundary of the wildlife sanctuary.
While about 43,547 ha comes under Khurda district, another 29,410 ha is in Cuttack district. There are 90 villages which fall within the proposed ESZ and Bhubaneswar Town is one of them.
Once the ESZ is finally notified, the State Government will have to prepare a Zonal Master Plan (ZMP) within two years. While the ZMP will not impose any restriction on the existing approved land use, infrastructure as well as activities, it will provide for restoration of denuded areas, conservation of water bodies, management of catchment areas and watershed management among other things.
The places of worship, villages and urban settlements, forest types, agricultural areas, fertile lands and green areas such as parks, orchards, lakes and horticulture pockets will have to be identified under the plan.
As many as 11 activities, including commercial mining, stone quarrying and crushing units, saw mill establishment, units causing air, water and soil pollution, hazardous industries, hotels and resorts, flying of hot-air balloons over sanctuary and discharge of effluents are prohibited in ESZ limits. No new construction shall be permitted except for domestic needs of local residents and non-polluting small-scale industries.
Similarly, 17 activities will be regulated while seven environment-friendly activities would be promoted.
“The purpose of the ESZ is to give wild animals free passage for food requirements, improvement of their gene pool, pollination, prevention of hazardous activities apart from mindless development near sanctuaries. The whole idea is that people must realise the importance of protected areas and respect the regulations,” said a senior officer of the Forest and Environment Department.
Land use of forests, agriculture land, green areas and other spaces meant for recreational purposes in the ESZ cannot be used or converted into commercial or industrial related activities unless recommended by the monitoring committee with prior approval from the State Government.
Similarly, tourism development will also be dependent on a master plan. No new construction of hotel and resorts will be permitted while all expansion and existing activities would be guided by eco-tourism guidelines issued by National Tiger Conservation Authority. Vehicular traffic movement will be regulated in habitat-friendly manner.
Spread over 194.98 sq km, Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary is home to Asia elephants, ratel, wild dog, mouse deer, Indian giant squirrel, python, pangolin and serpent eagle.