The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), GoI, has designated some regions in India as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) in and surrounding Protected Areas, National Parks, and Wildlife Sanctuaries.


  • By controlling and supervising the activities in and around protected places, it is possible to act as "shock absorbers" for these environments.
  • As a result, these regions serve as a buffer for protected areas and lessen the pressure for development near wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
  • They serve as a crossing point between regions with high levels of protection and those with lower levels of protection.

Range of ESZ:According to the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, all designated areas near Protected Areas and animal corridors must be classified as environmentally vulnerable (National Wildlife Action Plan, 2002-2016).

The eco-sensitive zone may surround protected areas for up to 10 kilometres.In situations where environmentally significant areas, interconnectedness, and sensitive corridors extend over 10 km in width.

Eco-sensitive zones may also not be consistent throughout and may vary in breadth and extent.

What are the Activities Allowed in ESZs?

  • Prohibited Activities:Commercial wood consumption, sawmills, industries that pollute the environment (air, water, soil, noise, etc.), and the construction of large hydroelectric projects (HEP). Activities related to tourism such as hot air balloon flights over a national park, the release of effluents or any solid waste, or the manufacture of hazardous materials  
  • Regulated Activities:Tree cutting, construction of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, installation of electrical cables, radical changes to agriculture, such as the use of heavy machinery, pesticides, etc., and road widening.  
  • Permitted Activities:Ongoing horticultural or agricultural techniques, the use of renewable energy sources, organic farming, rainwater harvesting, and the implementation of green technology across all sectors.  

What is the Significance of ESZs? 

  • Minimize the Impact of Development Activities:The areas close to protected areas have been designated as Eco-Sensitive Zones in order to lessen the effects of urbanization and other developmental activities. 
  • Promote In-situ Conservation: ESZs support in-situ conservation, which focuses on preserving a threatened species in its own environment, such as the one-horned rhinoceros of Assam's Kaziranga National Park.
  • Minimize Forest Depletion and Man-Animal Conflict: Eco-sensitive zones reduce man-animal conflict and the loss of forests. The core and buffer style of management serves as the foundation for the protected areas, which also benefits and protects the surrounding communities.
  • Minimize the Negative Impact on the Fragile Ecosystems: Eco-sensitive zones are designated around protected areas in order to act as a "Shock Absorber" for the protected region. They serve as a crossing point between regions with high levels of protection and those with lower levels of protection.

Controversy around Eco Sensitive zones: A obligatory eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of at least one km shall start from each protected forest, national park, and wildlife sanctuary across the nation, according to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court (SC). On the one hand, this new decision can result in more sustainable growth, while on the other, tribal rights, including their culture, variety, and other aspects, will be maintained.

Way Forward

Government should focus on reducing the roadblocks and threats to Eco sensitive Zones such as 

  • Developmental activities in the ESZ, such as building roads, dams, and other urban and rural infrastructure, cause interference, have a negative effect on the environment, and upset the ecological system.
  • Legislation like the EPA, 1986, and WPA weaken the ESZs in favor of development activities, while failing to acknowledge the rights of forest people and stop animal poaching.
  • Land around parks and sanctuaries is being removed through deforestation, eviction of locals, etc. to meet the growing demand for eco-tourism. Tourists pollute the ecosystem by dumping trash such as plastic bags, bottles, and other items. The Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh serves as a good illustration of how tourism has caused ecological deterioration. 
  • A competitive need for naturally occurring forests is created by the introduction of exotic species like eucalyptus among others, and their plantations.
  • Climate Change and  Biodiversity are intertwined. For instance, the increase in world temperature has put ESZs under stress in terms of land, water, and the environment. 

The protected areas are under threat from a number of local community practices, including the usage of slash and burn farming methods, the pressure of a growing population, the increased demand for firewood and other forest products, etc.

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