Sunday, July 10, 2011

MoEF declares four new eco zones in state

MoEF declares four new eco zones in state
Express India

Girnar forest, Vansda National Park, Purna and Narayan Sarovar wildlife sanctuaries will have new master plans in a year

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has declared four wildlife sanctuaries and national parks inside Gujarat as eco-sensitive zones to protect the biodiversity there.

The move restricts industrial development, changes in land use and tourism activities, while banning the use of plastic bags inside these areas.

The four new eco-sensitive zones include certain areas in the Girnar Reserve Forest in western Saurashtra, the entire Vansda National Park and the Purna Wildlife Sanctuary in south Gujarat as well as the Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kutch.

The state government has been asked to prepare Zonal Master Plans for each of these zones within a year. In the meantime, polluting industries have been disallowed from being set up henceforth while non-polluting industries may be set up provided each maintains a 50-metre-wide green belt.

Mining has also been banned and all existing leases are to be phased out while sand quarrying may be allowed in some areas only if it is for the local population.

Even land use changes from agriculture to non-agricultural purposes will be allowed only for residential development, that too for the needs of the locals only.

Each zone will also have a monitoring committee comprising respective district collectors, a representative of an environmental NGO working in the area, the regional pollution control officers, a senior town planner and a representative of the MoEF.

All places of worship, villages, forests, agricultural areas, fertile lands, green areas, horticultural areas, orchards, lakes and water bodies would be recorded and any new construction would be allowed only after due approval by the respective monitoring committees before the master plans are ready.

A total of 119 villages fall inside these newly declared eco-sensitive zones and the local governments of larger human settlements (with populations more than 5,000) would have their own Area Development Plans.

Tourism plans would have to promote eco-tourism, eco-education and eco-development, while commercial extraction of groundwater will also be regulated.

All the natural springs and their catchment areas are also to be mapped out and no development is to be allowed so that they can be rejuvenated and preserved.

What each of the draft notifications seek to protect

*"The Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary falls under a separate biotic province of the country," the draft said. "A distinct gene pool" of rare and threatened species like the chinkara, caracal, wold, leopard, spiny-tailed lizard, desert cat, great Indian bustard, lesser florican and the houbara bustard live in an area that has a mix of arid regions, grasslands, coastal areas with dense mangrove forests, partial wetlands and patches of lentic (still water) wetlands. The danger is also that this area is mineral rich. Limestone, lignite, bentonite and bauxite are found here".

*Besides the Asiatic Lion, the Girnar Reserve Forest is home to a rich plant diversity, mammals, reptiles and avifauna. The catchment areas of the Sonrakh, Gudajali and the Loi rivers that recharge the water-table of Junagadh also lie here. "Ongoing developmental activities, industrialization and mining activities" need to be checked for long-term conservation.

*The Vansda National Park "harboured population of tigers in the past and still harbours species like spotted deer, palm civet, small Indian civet, barking deer, four-horned antelope, wild boar, flying squirrel, rusty spotted cat, leopard cat and many species of rodents, reptiles, and amphibians", various bird species, shrubs and herbs with medicinal properties, orchids, lichens and ferns.

*The Purna Wildlife Sanctuary is "covered on all sides by quality teak forests along with bamboo patches" and hosts 61 tree species, 31 herb and shrub species, 18 species of climbers, 24 mammal species including some rare species, 18 species of reptiles, more than 3,000 species of insects and more than 142 species of birds.

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