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MOEF’s own letter is Goa government’s best response to buffer zones notification delays

DIG MOEF’s Feb 18 letter gives time to all govts till May 15 to send proposals on ecosensitive zone demarcations

Team Goan ,Panjim 04 May 2013

A letter sent to all Chief Secretaries by the DIG Forests (Wildlife) Vivek Saxena, on February 18, could turn out to be the Goa government’s trump card against a charge that it hasn’t responded on the issue of notifications for eco-sensitive zones around wildlife parks and sanctuaries.

The letter gives three months, with a deadline of May 15 to all states to submit their draft notifications for Ecologically Sensitive Areas for all National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries.

Goa is under pressure from the MOEF, which has fi led a mid-April affidavit that is has received no response from the Goa government on the issue and it would be constrained to recommending a 10 kilometer buffer zone, which would spell doom to the mining industry that would effectively have to be shut down in its wake.

The MOEF told the Supreme Court that “it had no choice” but to consider the area within 10 km of all national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Goa, as ecologically sensitive zones. However the February 18 letter (F. No 1-9/2007-WL-1) “the proposals for about 100 ESZs have been received from the states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh etc and most of the states have intimated that their proposals are ready. As the process of formulation of proposals also includes consideration and approval of the state governments, several states have requested for extension of time ranging from two to six months for submission of all proposals.”

The letter, completely conciliatory to the states added “It has been observed that all the states have been working diligently for formulation of ESZ proposals and some time is required for consideration of proposals and approval at the state government level also before submission to the ministry”. The

MOEF therefore decided vide this letter that an “extension for a further period of three months be accorded for submission of proposals/draft notification for Ecologically Sensitive Areas for all the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of all the states.”

The MOEF informed that only if proposals are not received by May 15, 2013, further action would be taken.

This letter ironically comes to the defence of the state government against the very ministry’s affidavit filed by its representative Dr Saroj, who has been quoted in the media having reportedly said “Despite pursuing the matter, MoEF hasn’t received any response from the state government in this regard too and this information is required to verify the distances of mining projects from the sanctuaries and national parks,” adding that a project located within 1 km of a protected area would require approval of the standing committee of the national board for wildlife.

The government however had responded as way back as October 18, 2012 followed by its detailed affidavit to the Supreme Court. The letter from Principal Secretary, Mines, Rajnikant Verma to Vivek Saxena says that “buffer zone as recommended by CEC should be adopted for the State of Goa.”

This letter quoted the Goa cabinet’s decision on buffer zones as follows: “The buffer zone based on the notified area of National Parks/Wildlife sanctuaries as recommended by CEC should be adopted for the state of Goa. It would reduce the buffer zone from two to one kilometres, which is acceptable to the government.” Mr Verma’s letter concluded by stating “The above may please be treated as comments from the Government of Goa and suitably incorporated in the affidavit to be fi led.”

It is learnt that the fresh response, which the government will file by May 15, is exactly along the same lines. It is currently with the Department of Mines and will be sent after a final round of vetting by the Chief Minister.

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