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Supreme Court Mandates Minimum 1 KM ESZ For Protected Forests; Bans Permanent Structures There; No Mining In Wildlife Sanctuaries & National Parks

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
3 Jun 2022 6:08 AM GMT
Supreme Court Mandates Minimum 1 KM ESZ For Protected Forests; Bans Permanent Structures There; No Mining In Wildlife Sanctuaries & National Parks
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In a significant order, the Supreme Court on Friday directed that each protected forest should have an Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of 1 kilometre.The Court further directed that no permanent structure will be allowed within the ESZ. Mining within national wildlife sanctuary or national park cannot be permitted.If the existing ESZ goes beyond 1 km buffer zone or if any statutory instrument...

In a significant order, the Supreme Court on Friday directed that each protected forest should have an Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of 1 kilometre.

The Court further directed that no permanent structure will be allowed within the ESZ. Mining within national wildlife sanctuary or national park cannot be permitted.

If the existing ESZ goes beyond 1 km buffer zone or if any statutory instrument prescribes a higher limit,  then such extended boundary shall prevail.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and Aniruddha Bose passed the directions in applications filed in the TN Godavarman Thirumalpad case. Justice Bose read out the operative portion of the judgment.

The Chief Conservator of Forests of each state has been directed to make a list of subsisting structures at the ESZs and submit a report to the court within 3 months period.

The present set of applications arose out of a report of the Central Empwered Committee (CEC which was constituted by the Court in 2002) dated 20th November 2003. This report specifically pertains to Jamua Ramgarh wildlife sanctuary. This sanctuary covers an area of about 300 square kilometres. The Court noted that the said report gave a horrific picture of ravaging of a protected forest mainly by private miners mostly with temporary working permits obtained from the Governmental agencies.

On 20th September 2012, a second report was submitted by the CEC. The recommendations made in the second report went beyond the Jamua Ramgarh Sanctuary and dealt with creation of identification and declaration of safety zones around protected forests all across the country.

The question of having ESZ around the protected forests was examined by this Court earlier in another Writ Petition [W.P. (Civil) No. 460 of 2004] in Goa Foundation v. Union of India, in which certain directions were passed on 4th December 2006 [reported in (2011) 15 SCC 791.

A set of Guidelines for Declaration of Eco­Sensitive Zones (ESZ) around National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries had been formulated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) of the Government of India on 9th February 2011 [F. No.1­9/2007 WL – I (pt)]. These Guidelines deal with the process and procedures to be adopted for declaring ESZ. 

In the present order, passed in a set of applications filed by the miners, the Court held that the guidelines issued on February 9, 2011 are "reasonable".

The following are the directions issued :

(a )Each protected forest, that is national park or wildlife sanctuary must have an ESZ of minimum one kilometre measured from the demarcated boundary of such protected forest in which the activities proscribed and prescribed in the Guidelines of 9th February 2011 shall be strictly adhered to. For Jamua Ramgarh wildlife sanctuary, it shall be 500 metres so far as subsisting activities are concerned.

(b) In the event, however, the ESZ is already prescribed as per law that goes beyond one kilometre buffer zone, the wider margin as ESZ shall prevail. If such wider buffer zone beyond one kilometre is proposed under any statutory instrument for a particular national park or wildlife sanctuary awaiting final decision in that regard, then till such final decision is taken, the ESZ covering the area beyond one kilometre as proposed shall be maintained.

(c) The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests as also the Home Secretary of each State and Union Territory shall remain responsible for proper compliance of the said Guidelines as regards nature of use within the ESZ of all national parks and sanctuaries within a particular State or Union Territory. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests for each State and Union Territory shall also arrange to make a list of subsisting structures and other relevant details within the respective ESZs forthwith and a report shall be furnished before this Court by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of each State and Union Territory within a period of three months. For this purpose, such authority shall be entitled to take assistance of any governmental agency for satellite imaging or photography using drones.

(d) Mining within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries shall not be permitted.

(e) In the event any activity is already being undertaken within the one kilometre or extended buffer zone (ESZ), as the case may be, of any wildlife sanctuary or national park which does not come within the ambit of prohibited activities as per the 9th February 2011 Guidelines, such activities may continue with permission of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of each State or Union Territory and the person responsible for such activities in such a situation shall obtain necessary permission within a period of six months. Such permission shall be given once the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests is satisfied that the activities concerned do not come within the prohibited list and were continuing prior to passing of this order in a legitimate manner. No new permanent structure shall be permitted to come up for whatsoever purpose within the ESZ.

(f) The minimum width of the ESZ may be diluted in overwhelming public interest but for that purpose the State or Union Territory concerned shall approach the CEC and MoEF&CC and both these bodies shall give their respective opinions/recommendations before this Court. On that basis, this Court shall pass appropriate order.

(g) In the event the CEC, MoEF&CC, the Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife or any other body of persons or individual having special interest in environmental issues consider it necessary for maintaining a wider or larger ESZ in respect of any national park or wildlife sanctuary, such body or individual shall approach the CEC. In such a situation the CEC shall be at liberty to examine the need of a wider ESZ in respect of any national park or wildlife sanctuary in consultation with all the stakeholders including the State or Union Territory concerned, MoEF&CC as also the Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife and then approach this Court with its recommendations.

(h) In respect of sanctuaries or national parks for which the proposal of a State or Union Territory has not been given, the 10 kilometres buffer zone as ESZ, as indicated in the order passed by this Court on 4th December 2006 in the case of Goa Foundation (supra) and also contained in the Guidelines of 9th February 2011 shall be implemented. Within that area, the entire set of restrictions concerning an ESZ shall operate till a final decision in that regard is arrived at.

Case Title : In Re : TN Godavarman Thirumalpad versus Union of India

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 540

Click here to read/download the order

Headnotes | Environment( Protection) Act 1986 - Section 3 - Guidelines issued by the Union Ministry on February 9 2011 for Ecologically Sensitive Zones near protected forests held to be reasonable - Further directions issued in relation to ESZ -No new permanent structure shall be permitted to come up for whatsoever purpose within the ESZ - Mining within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries shall not be permitted.


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