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Post at: May 27 2022

Proposed ESZ in Neyyar and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuaries

Recent Context

  • On March 25, 2022, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has issued a draft notification to declare an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
  • ESZ will encompass large swathes of human-inhabited areas around the Neyyar and the Peppara wildlife sanctuaries in Thiruvananthapuram,  Kerala.

What is the notification about?

  • The draft notification seeks to conserve and protect an area of 70.906 sq km, which will extend up to 2.72 km from the boundaries of the protected areas of the sanctuaries.
  • The two sanctuaries, which form part of the core area of the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats, are known to be blessed with rich biodiversity.
  • They are known to sustain diverse fauna including 43 mammal species, 233 bird species, 46 reptile species, 13 amphibian species, 27 marine species and a wide variety of butterflies and odonates. 
  • The endangered Myristica swamps are also endemic to the protected areas.

What activities are prohibited in the ESZ?

  • The draft notification chiefly proposes a prohibition on 15 activities. 
  • These include a ban on all new and existing commercial mining, stone quarrying and crushing units. 
  • New industries and expansion of existing polluting industries shall not be permitted. 
  • The restrictions will also prevent the setting up for major hydroelectric projects, solid waste disposal sites, large-scale commercial livestock and poultry farms, saw mills, other wood-based industrial units and brick kilns.

What are the apprehensions and demands of the local populace?

  • The local bodies fear that the regulations could adversely impact normal life as well as their growth prospects. 
  • The restrictions are likely to hinder the ongoing infrastructure development projects including the Hill Highway project that is aimed at improving road connectivity in the high ranges.
  • Farmers in places including Amboori where rubber cultivation accounted for nearly 90% of agricultural activities feels the regulations might create difficulties in chopping down trees for replanting.

Way Forward

  • The MoEFCC has provided 60 days to raise objections or suggestions on the proposals. The state Govt. will be provided an opportunity to submit a revised proposal at a later stage.

 


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