• Farmers in Kerala are protesting against Supreme Court’s order to establish Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs).
  • The SC has directed to have a mandatory ESZ of minimum one kilometre measured from the demarcated boundary of every protected forest, including the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
  • The Kerala State Assembly demands the Centre to notify the zones by considering the State government’s proposals that marked the ESZ as zero around 10 protected areas of the State.

Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • The National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC)stipulated that state governments should declare land falling within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as eco fragile zones or Eco Sensitive Zones (ESZs) under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986
  • While the 10-km rule is implemented as a general principle, the extent of its application can vary.
  • Areas beyond 10-km can also be notified by the Union government as ESZs, if they hold larger ecologically important “sensitive corridors.”


  • ESZs are created as “shock absorbers” for the protected areas, to minimize the negative impact on the “fragile ecosystems” by certain human activities taking place nearby.
  • They are meant to act as a transition zone from areas requiring higher protection to those requiring lesser protection.
  • The ESZs are not meant to hamper the daily activities of people living in the vicinity, but are meant to guard the protected areas and “refine the environment around them”.


  • The order comes a decade after the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report (Gadgil report) that had radically influenced the socio-political, economic and ecological narratives in the State.
  • Though not to the level of the high-pitched public unrest and protests that the State witnessed during the days preceding the WGEEP report, the ESZ notification too has triggered state-wide protests.
  • Earlier, the State Government had taken care to exclude the areas with high population density, government and quasi-government institutions, and public institutions from the ambit of its Draft ESZ notification.
  • The marking of the ESZ for the protected areas that shared the forest boundary with the neighbouring States was a peaceful affair as there were no human habitations in between.
  • However, the apex court’s recent order has changed the picture and forced the State government to re-look the ESZs of at least 10 protected areas which were earlier marked as zero. 


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