U-K forest dwellers worried over draft order on eco-sensitive zone

U-K forest dwellers worried over draft order on eco-sensitive zone
People of Joida taluk face an uncertain future with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) deciding to declare the forests in the region an ecologically sensitive zone (ESZ). The ministry issued a draft notification on November 2, 2016, by declaring a 7-sqkm area an ecologically sensitive zone. Twelve villages of Joida taluk and seven each of Haliyal and Yellapur taluks, a total area of 13,796 hectares, are part of the ESZ. Some of these villages have been entirely brought under the ESZ.

A total of 31 restrictions have been imposed on the people here, which could affect their day-to-day activities. No one can engage in mining and quarrying, polluting industries and timber-based units are not allowed inside the forests, there cannot be modifications to the farming pattern and chemical fertilisers cannot be used by farmers.

The order says that an environmental damage audit should be conducted before undertaking road development and repair works. It lays stress on the use of sustainable fuels, rainwater harvesting and organic farming. Ravi Redkar, president of the Sanjeevini Seva Trust, says projects like the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and Hornbill reserve forest have been implemented, much to the chagrin of the residents. These have already compromised the fundamental rights of the forest dwellers, Redkar says.

Sunil Desai, secretary of the ESZ agitation committee, says that forest officials had demarcated the ESZ boundaries as per their whims and fancies and sent a proposal to the MoEF. “How can forest dwellers, who cannot use mobile phones, read the draft notification on the website?” he asks.

A total of 16 gram panchayats (GPs) coming under the ESZ have passed resolutions opposing the notification. A memorandum against it, with around 10,000 signatures, has been sent to the MoEF. A team of agitators will go to Delhi to discuss with Supreme Court lawyers on the legal steps to be taken, said agitation committee president Mohammed Rafiq Khaji.

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