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A file photo of environment minister Prakash Javadekar. Photo: Hindustan Times
A file photo of environment minister Prakash Javadekar. Photo: Hindustan Times

Wildlife board panel puts a freeze on clearances

Projects in or around national parks, wildlife sanctuaries will not be considered till sensitive zones are demarcated

The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has decided not to consider any infrastructure or developmental projects in and around 624 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks across the country until their ecologically sensitive zones (ESZs) are clearly demarcated.

The committee, chaired by Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, in a meeting on 5 November took the decision since, despite several reminders, many states are yet to submit ESZ demarcation proposals.

The standing committee took up 53 projects and recommended 26 for clearance, while deferring a decision on the remaining 27.

Some of the projects that were recommended for wildlife clearance by the committee are the Gwalior-Shivpuri section of National Highway 3 in Madhya Pradesh, a water supply project in Kolhapur (Maharashtra), the Vontimitta lift irrigation scheme (Andhra Pradesh) and the redevelopment of the Chandigarh railway station.

Projects that fall in an ESZ or within protected areas are taken up by NBWL.

The strong line taken by the NBWL committee is meant to get states to speed up the submission of ESZ proposals.

“This step is to strengthen environmental regulation as it will force states to demarcate ESZs, which are pending from years. Our clear decision is that until ESZ of a particular wildlife sanctuary or national park is marked, we will not even consider a project in them," an environment ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The decision could delay some projects, he admitted, but emphasized that this is in keeping with the government’s plan to balance environment and development.

“States can no longer delay demarcation of ESZs," the official added.

Javadekar, who has been criticized for being liberal in handing out green clearances to industrial projects, had in August said that all ESZs must be completed by March next year.

The Supreme Court had in 2006 asked states to submit ESZ demarcation proposals, failing which an ESZ of a 10km radius would apply from the perimeter of the protected area.

Following the apex court’s order, the environment ministry has been pushing states for ESZ demarcation, but without much success.

Till August, final notifications demarcating ESZs for only 32 protected areas had been issued.

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