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CEC proposes, MOEF disposes

Despite CEC’s calibrated buffer zone recommendation upto maximum 2 kilometers, MoEF files an affidavit for a 10 km ‘Eco sensitive zone”

Neshwin Almeida | The Goan ,New Delhi 03 November 2012

In a new twist to the turns and bends in the buffer zone controversy, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that a 10 kilometre Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) area around all Protected Areas will be operative where no mining or any other ore extraction related activity will be carried out. MoEF’s proposal to the Apex Court, a copy of which is available with The Goan, comes on the background of Supreme Court appointed Central Powered Committee recommending buffer zones not more than one kilometer around national parks and wildlife sanctuary for Goa.

The court had in principle agreed to the CEC’s proposal. Playing down CEC’s recommendations, MoEF states that “the proposed safety zones have been made smaller without a substantive and reasonable basis”.

MoEF’s affidavit virtually rubbishes Supreme Court appointed amicus curiae and CEC’s proposal for buffer zones calling it “a convenience of management than any objective criteria”.

MoEF’s new card, the Eco Sensitive Zone is a detailed process that it has proposed to the Apex Court in its affidavit. The Ministry has set a time limit of 545 days for completion of setting up of Eco Sensitive Zones starting June 28 this year. The detailed process involves framing of proposals by State Forests Department, scrutiny by MoEF, public hearing and final notification by MoEF. The tagging of ESZ’s to mining is a new development that is bringing back through the backdoor the case for a 10 kilometre corridor around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in any state.

For Goa, it threatens to further lengthen the delay in restarting its closed industry. What is concerning though is the MOEFs stand that states' governments haven’t responded in this issue. The MoEF has proposed to the Apex Court that In a 12 page affidavit, sworn by Vivek Saxena, Deputy Inspector General (Wildlife), MoEF has said that it has not received any comments or views from any of the state governments, despite the circulation of CEC’s recommendations for buffer zones.

This however, seems blatantly incorrect as far as Goa is concerned since Government of Goa had informed him as early as October 18 of its’ decision on buffer zones. The letter from Principal Secretary Mines Rajnikant Verma to Saxena says that “buffer zone as recommended by CEC should be adopted for the State of Goa”.

MoEF’s affi davit to the Supreme Court in the wake of CEC’s visit to Goa could well be a spanner in the works for Goa’s mining industry. The CEC, which was in Goa last week, had specifically examined the veracity of Justice M B Shah Commission’s Report on Illegal Mining in Goa. The Committee had also met the various stakeholders of the industry that supports almost 30% of the Goan population.

Shrewd Sixes: MoEF's new prescription for ESZs

  • Preparation of proposal and submission by the State Forest Department to the State Government after due deliberations of a State Government constituted committee setup for this purpose
  • State Government of the State’s Proposal to the MoEF after due scrutiny and approval for consideration
  • Research in Environment and Wildlife Divisions of MoEF with inputs from other agencies (if needed) scrutinise the proposal
  • Draft Proposal is finalis ed after mutual consultations between State and MoEF and gazette for views / observations / suggestions of the public. Time limit – 60 days
  • Considering Public views, draft again scrutinized and finalised after consultations, by competent authority
  • Final notification is published. Duration of the process – 545 days

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