How Ecological Sensitive Zones (ESZs) are classified and uses thereof

lawBy Accommodation Times News Services

The term ‘Ecologically Sensitive Area’ refers to extensive tracts and ‘Ecologically Sensitive Zone’ refers to specific zones within the extended ‘Ecologically Sensitive Area’ for which a particular set of regulatory/ promotional activities have been proposed. Criteria set by The Pronab Sen Committee (set up in 2000 by MoEF) recommended
‘Endemism’ as foremost criterion for identification of an Ecologically Sensitive Area & the committee proposed that ‘the area of occurrence of every endemic species needs to be protected in its entirety’. This is followed by WGEEP and it recommends that the entire Western Ghats tract should be considered as an Ecologically Sensitive Area. WGEEP recommends the adoption of a graded or layered approach, and suggests that the entire Western Ghats be characterized as comprising ESZ 1, 2 & 3, as follows- ESZ 1 Regions of highest sensitivity ESZ 2 Regions of high sensitivity ESZ 3 Regions of moderate sensitivity These will be complementary to areas already declared as Protected Areas, which will continue to be managed under regulations prescribed by pertinent acts such as the Wildlife Protection Act. WGEEP has come up with four colour maps spanning the entire Western Ghats depicting PAs, and ESZ1, ESZ2 and ESZ3. WGEEP assigned ESZ1, ESZ2 and ESZ3 levels to all the 134 talukas of Western Ghats
(except 8 talukas from Goa). Features of ESZ classification are as follows- 1. Western Ghats regions of each state are treated separately. 2. Existing Protected Areas are treated as a fourth separate category. 3. ESZ1, ESZ2 and ESZ3 status is assigned only to grids outside existing Protected Areas. 4. ESZ1 status is assigned only to such grids as have a score at least equaling, or higher than the lowest scoring grids falling within existing Protected Areas. 5. Detailed information such as localities of origin of rivers, laterite plateaus, and localities where local communities have expressed a strong interest in conservation can be used to decide on demarcation of ecologically sensitive localities 6. The extent of existing Protected Areas plus ESZ1will not normally exceed 60% of the total area. 7. The extent of area covered by existing Protected Areas plus ESZ1 and ESZ2 together will be around 75%. 8. The extent of ESZ3 will normally be around 25% of the total area. 8. What is the Methodology followed for assigning ESZs? Development of a spatial database, for over 2200 grids of 5’x 5’ or roughly 9 km x 9 km through compilation of all readily available information on topography, land cover and occurrence of biodiversity elements. Grids with scores at the level of Protected Areas and above within the same state be assigned to ESZ 1 category, with the proviso that the total area under PAs and ESZ1 be limited to 60% to balance the development needs of
states. ~25% of grids with scores at the lower end be assigned to ESZ 3 category, and the balance to ESZ 2.
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