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SC for 1 km eco-sensitive zone around protected forests, wildlife sanctuaries

New Delhi: Observing that the threat of climate catastrophe is looming large because of global warming, the Supreme Court on Monday said that governments had to be proactive in preserving ecology and directed that one km area around every protected forest, national park or wildlife sanctuary be declared as 'ecosensitive' zone where no mining, construction and other projects will be allowed. 
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, B R Gavai and Aniruddha Bose said adherence to the principle of sustainable development is a constitutional requirement and there is an urgent need to preserve environment and forests. 
As there was no consensus among different authorities regarding the area to be declared as ESZ, the court said the 1 km wide "no-development zone" is the minimum and it can be extended depending on the area and location of protected forests.
The court emphasised that both development and environment must go hand in hand and there should not be development at the cost of environment. 
"The role of the state cannot be confined to that of a facilitator or generator of economic activities for immediate upliftment of the fortunes of the state. The state also has to act as a trustee in relation to natural resources so that sustainable development can be achieved in the long term. Such a 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 bench said.
The court approved teh 'Guidelines for Declaration of EcoSensitive Zones (ESZ) around Nationla Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries' formulated by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) in 2011 and directed states and UTs to implement it.
Issuing a slew of directions, the bench said the principal chief conservator of forests as also the home sSecretary of each state and Union Territory shall remain responsible for compliance.
"Each protected forest, that is national park or wildlife sanctuary must have an ESZ of minium one kilometre measured from the demarcated boundary of such protected forest in which the activities proscribed and prescribed in the guidelines shall be strictly adhered to," it said.
It said no new permanent structure shall be permitted to come up for whatsoever pupose within the ESZ and directed the principal chief conservator of forests for each state and UT to make a list of subsisting structures within the respective  ESZs forth with and place before it.
It said in cases where the ESZ is already prescribed as per law that goes beyond one km buffer zone, the wider margin as ESZ shall prevail. "In respect of sanctuaries or national parks for which the proposal of a state or Union Territory has not been given, the 10 km buffer zone as ESZ, as indicated in the order passed by this court on December 4, 2006 and also contained in the guideline of shall be implemented," it said.
As per the said guidelines, commercial mining, setting up of saw mills and industies causing pollution, commercial use of firewood, establishment of major hydroelectric projects, use of production of any hazardous substances, undertaking activities related to tourism like overflying the national park area by any aircraft, hotair balloons, discharge of effluents and solid waste in natural water bodies or terrestrial areas  have been proposed to be declared 'prohibited activities'.

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