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SC removes bans on total prohibition on developmental projects within Eco-sensitive zones

SC removes bans on total prohibition on developmental projects within Eco-sensitive zones

The Supreme Court on Wednesday removes the ban on total prohibition on developmental projects within eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) that extend at least one kilometre around safeguarded wildlife sanctuaries, and national parks.

The bench headed by Justice BR Gavai revised their previous ruling from June 2022, held that any actions taking place within eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) must follow the February 2011 guidelines provided by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC), along with the 2022 office memorandum of an expert committee on ESZ.

Justices Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol, who were also part of the bench stated that the 2022 ban will not apply in situations where MoEFCC has issued relevant notifications.

The court further, made it clear that mining within national parks and within one kilometre of their boundaries is not permitted.

The court also acknowledged that the MoEFCC's February 2011 guidelines for ESZs outline the activities that are strictly regulated and those that are prohibited.

During the court hearing, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati stated that the limitations on construction activities have had a negative impact on the development of essential public facilities like schools, hospitals, and dispensaries.

Advocate K Parmeshwar, who provided assistance to the court as amicus curiae, expressed support for revising the June 2022 verdict. He cited the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, which permits forest dwellers to construct basic amenities for their needs.

Parmeshwar argued that this law becomes irrelevant due to the ban on construction, especially since most forest dwellers reside within ESZs.

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