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Why are farmers in Kerala protesting against Eco-Sensitive Zones?

kerala ecz eco sensitive zone issue explained in detail

The Supreme Court recently ordered the creation of Eco-sensitive zones within a one-kilometer radius of all protected areas, Wild Life Sanctuaries, and National Parks. According to the Government of India’s Wild Life Action Plan 2002-2016, a 10 km area around the National Park, and Sanctuary should be declared as Eco Fragile Zone or Eco-Sensitive Zone. Farmers in southern states like Kerala and Karnataka are protesting against eco-sensitive zones. They feel that this will jeopardize their livelihood.

Farmers in Kerala’s Idukki, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, and Wayanad districts are protesting the Supreme Court order, fearing that the eco-sensitive zone will make it difficult for them to do farming and it will threaten their livelihood.

The state government, opposition parties, and Catholic churches are also supporting these farmers. Seeing the increasing protests, the central government has said that it will file an affidavit in the Supreme Court in this matter after talking to the state government.

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

According to the National Wild Life Action Plan 2002-2016, a 10 km radius of ecologically important areas is declared an eco-sensitive zone. So that no commercial activity can take place here.

Its range can be extended beyond 10 km depending on the need and importance. The central government can declare environmentally important places as (ESZs) eco-sensitive zones.

According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment, eco-sensitive zones act as shock absorbers for the protected area. They work to protect the protected area from the ill effects of human activities happening around it.

Mining, the felling of trees, and any commercial activity are banned in the eco-sensitive zone. However, it is not intended to disrupt the daily activities of the people.

Activities like farming, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, and horticulture are not banned in these places.

The purpose of the Eco-Sensitive Zone is only to protect the environment of these areas.

What is the order of the Supreme Court?

On June 3, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court, while listening to a PIL, ordered the creation of an eco-sensitive zone to protect the forest land around the Nilgiris of Tamil Nadu, which was later ordered to be implemented throughout the country.

While hearing the Supreme Court, considering the guidelines of the Central Government of 2011 to be correct, fixed the boundary of an area of ​​1 kilometer of the protected area in the whole country and asked to declare it as an eco-sensitive zone. It also said that there will be a ban on permanent construction and mining in an eco-sensitive zone. Also, if need be, its range can be increased to more than 1 kilometer.

What is the problem of Kerala farmers with eco-sensitive zone?

In fact, in southern states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, many people live around the protected area. Human settlement is quite dense here. Farmers say that this will affect their livelihood. In Kerala, 8 lakh acres of land come under the Wildlife Sanctuary. If 1 kilometer more is declared eco-sensitive, then there is a total of 4 lakh acres in this area where people live and do agriculture. Their life will be affected due to the closure of commercial activity here.

Before the Supreme Court’s judgment, the Kerala government had demanded that human settlement in the eco-sensitive buffer zone should be excluded. After the order came, both the Kerala government and the opposition are supporting farmers’ demands. They are organizing protests against the SC order.

However, it has been said in this order that farming is not prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone. Still, there is a protest.

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