NAGPUR: The Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) called the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) recommendations on Eco-Sensitive Area (ESA) notifications around sanctuaries and national parks as ad hoc, arbitrary and unscientific.
SC-NBWL, the country's topmost wildlife policymaking body, made this declaration after Wednesday's meeting at Paryavaran Bhavan, New Delhi. It was chaired by minister of state for environment and forest Jayanthi Natarajan.

The non-official members of SC-NBWL also unanimously declared the recommendations as unscientific. The SC-NBWL members said, "The extent of the ESA/ESZ cannot be linked arbitrarily with only the size of the Protected Area (PA). In many instances, small PAs - because of their small size - may require a larger safety zone around it to ensure its ecological integrity and value."

They added that the ESA/Safety Zone outer limit, as recommended by the CEC, is not sufficient to prevent the harmful influence of prohibited activities even under the existing guidelines of the ESZ of MoEF. The activities, which the CEC recommendations are permitting within the safety zone, will also create disturbance and ecological problems to the PA and need to be reviewed, the members added.

The SC-NBWL was of the opinion that each State should delineate the outer limits of the ESZ on a site specific, case-by-case basis, keeping in view the ecological imperatives and the ground realities of the PA, for which expert opinion and scientific inputs would be obtained from individuals and institutions. Once the plan for the entire state is ready, it will be submitted to the SC-NBWL, which would endorse it for the approval of Supreme Court.

NBWL members Divyabhanusinh Chavda, MK Ranjitsinh, AJT Johnsingh, Prerna Bindra, Kishor Rithe, Asad Rahmani of BNHS, Yashaveer of NCF Mysore endorsed these views.

The Supreme Court appointed CEC has recommended drastically reducing ESZs around PAs. ESZ for PAs having 500 sq km area or more has been curtailed to 2km; those between 200-500 sq km to 1km; between 100-200 sq km to 500 metres and for those below 100 sq km to 100 metres.

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