No development zone around national parks - MEF, GOI


`No-development zone' around parks planned

The Times of India News Service NEW DELHI, May 21.


The ministry of environment and forest, on Tuesday, stated before the Delhi high court that it fully endorsed the idea that a five-km radius around national sanctuaries and national parks should be declared as ``no-development zone.''

In an affidavit filed before a division bench comprising chief justice M. Jagannadha Rao and justice Dalveer Bhandari, the ministry has made this statement.

On April 11, 1994, the high court had appointed a high-powered committee which included standing counsel for the Central government Madan Lokur and counsel Raj Panjwani of the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-I), among others.

The committee had made a strong recommendation for a ``no-development zone'' around national parks and sanctuaries. It was recommended that within five kilometres radius of the sanctuaries and parks no factory or industry should be allowed to come up.

In addition to this, Mr Panjwani had suggested that no polluting industry should be allowed to grow within the vicinity of 25 km of the national parks and sanctuaries. He had contended that when Batkal lake and Suraj Kund have been provided these protections on the basis of being tourist centres, then why should not sanctuaries be accorded the same protection.

Mr Panjwani had earlier suggested several recommendations to implement the findings of the committee, one of which was notifying a 25-km radius of the national parks where no polluting industry should be permitted to operate.

The ministry also said no new industry should be allowed to operate in the vicinity of these parks and sanctuaries and that a committee appointed by it under chairmanship of Ranjit Singh was looking into the matter.

The ministry was, however, reluctant to move out the existing industries within a five-km radius of the wild life habitats on the plea that it would cause unemployment and hardships to the entrepreneurs.

Mr Panjwani had stated in the petition filed by the WWF that the major threat to the wild life sanctuaries was the inhabitants whose right had not yet been settled regarding compensatory land and right to grazing of their livestock.

He stated that though the last notification regarding a major national park or sanctuary came way back in 1983, the rights of even 20 per cent of the inhabitants were yet to be settled.

The committee had suggested that the settlement question be entrusted to a person not less than the rank of a deputy conservator of forests instead of chief revenue officer of a district as at present.

It felt that the chief revenue officer was too much involved in revenue and other projects and could not pay much attention to the settlement questions.

The ministry also admitted that there existed an exhaustive guideline regarding making a 25-km radius of a sanctuary, pollution free. But it said that these guidelines were not backed up by legal sanctions.

Among the important suggestions made by the committee appointed by the high court to save the wild life and their habitats, some important ones were:

Create a separate ministry for natural resources (forests and wild life).

All state wild life advisory boards must be constituted and must meet regularly. Honorary wild life wardens must be appointed.

Create wild life wings in Indian state forest services.

Ensure All-India Forest Service as well as state forest officers, foresters and forest guards receive wild life training which should be specialised for those operating for wild life wings.

Increase India's protected area network to 7.5 per cent by 2000 A.D.

Divide India into five wild life zones and have action plan for each with implementing authority at zonal and state-levels.

Improve anti-poaching measures and reduce pressure of urbanisation and economic development on wild life habitats.

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