The Supreme Court has ordered that; in protected forests, a minimum of one kilometre of eco-sensitive zone be maintained.

The Supreme Court has ordered that in protected forests, a minimum of one kilometre of eco-sensitive zone be maintained.

6 June 22

The Supreme Court has ordered that; in protected forests, a minimum of one kilometre of eco-sensitive zone be maintained.

Accepting that; identical criteria for preserving Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) in each sanctuary or national park may not be;  achievable, the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that; minimum width of 1 kilometre; ESZ be maintained in protected forests.

“Each protected forest, that; a national park or wildlife sanctuary must have an ESZ of a 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…..”, Justices L Nageshwar Rao, BR Gavai, and Aniruddha Bose sat on the bench.

The Supreme Court further stated that; if an ESZ is already in place by statute that; extends beyond a one-kilometre buffer zone, the ESZ will take precedence.

The Supreme Court issued; these orders in response to applications submitted in the; TN Godavarman Thirumalpad vs. Union of India and Ors Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which originally launched to safeguard forest areas in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu.

The three-judge bench noted that; the State’s role cannot be limited to that; of a facilitator or generator of economic activities for the immediate upliftment of the State’s fortunes and that; it must also act as a trustee for the benefit of the general public in relation; to natural resources in order to achieve long-term sustainable development.

“Such role of the State is more relevant today, than, possibly, at any point of time in history with; the threat of climate catastrophe resulting from global warming looming large…”, The Supreme Court made this observation.

Furthermore, each State and Union Territory’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Home Secretary  required to ensure that; the aforementioned Guidelines are; followed in terms of the; nature of usage within; the ESZ of all national parks and sanctuaries within that; State or Union Territory.

“The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of each State and Union Territory; shall also arrange for the immediate compilation of a list of existing structures and other relevant details within; the respective ESZs and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of each State and Union Territory shall submit; a report to this Court within three months.” Such authority shall be; authorised to use any governmental agency for; satellite imagery or photography employing drones for this purpose…” the Court noted.

In addition, the Supreme Court clarified that; the minimum width of the; ESZ may be diluted in the; overwhelming public interest, but only after;  the State or Union Territory concerned has approached; the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and the Ministry of Environment, Food and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), and both of these bodies have given their; respective opinions/recommendations before the Supreme Court, and the Court has passed appropriate orders on that basis.

T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad vs. Union of India and Others is the name of the case

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