[Answered] What are the differences between reserve forests, protected areas, community forest resource and ecologically sensitive zones? What were the problems with the implementation of ESZs?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Explain the differences between reserve forests, protected areas, community forest resource and ecologically sensitive zones. Also write some problems with the implementation of ESZs.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Protected areas cover 5.26% of India’s land area as 108 national parks and 564 wildlife sanctuaries. Surrounding protected areas is a region of more than 3.4% percent of the country’s land, which falls under the ESZ regime. Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA) recognises the rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities (FDST) and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) to forest resources.

There are following differences between reserve forests, protected areas, community forest resource and ecologically sensitive zones:

  • Reserve forests are the most restricted forests and are constituted by India Forest Act or the State Forest Acts on any forest land or wasteland. In reserved forests, local people are prohibited, unless specifically allowed.
  • Protected areas are notified under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Protected areas do away with even those activities permitted in ‘reserve forests’, unless specifically allowed.
  • The community forest resource area is the common forest land that has been traditionally protected for sustainable use by a particular community. It may include forest of any category-revenue forest, classified & unclassified forest, deemed forest, reserve forest, protected forest, sanctuary and national parks etc.
  • Ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) are intended to safeguard ‘protected areas’ by transitioning from an area of lower protection to an area of higher protection. The purpose of the ESZ was to provide more protection to the parks by acting as a shock absorber.

Problems with the implementation of ESZs:

  • Significantly, parts of the ESZs in ten States fall within the Scheduled Areas notified under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. They are mostly populated by Scheduled Tribe groups.
  • The Provisions of the PESA Act, 1996 apply in these areas. The PESA recognisesgram sabhas competence to safeguard and preserve community resources on forest and revenue lands in Scheduled Areas.
  • The MoEFCC has shown no inclination to amend the Indian Forest Act 1927, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 to comply with the PESA and FRA.
  • The protected areas are based on the core and buffer model of management. Many argue that if the parks already have buffer zones then why do we need ESZs.

There is a need for rethinking on the impacts of the environmental policies at the local level, the type and prospects of local participation and most importantly the prospects of alternate income generating opportunities for successful conservation initiatives.

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