ECO-SENSITIVE ZONES AND ECOLOGICALLY FRAGILE LANDS IN KERALA: KNOWN AND UNKNOWNLiji Samuel
Eco-Sensitive Zones or ecologically fragile lands are areas within 10 km around protected areas, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. ESA are notified by The Ministry Of Environment, Forest And Climate Change (MoEFCC) under the environment protection act 1986. In the case of places with sensitive corridors, connectively and ecologically necessary patches, crucial for landscape linkage, even areas beyond 10 km can also be included in the eco-sensitive zone. The Western Ghats are a mountain range that covers an area of 140,000 sq km spread across six states, including Kerala and runs parallel to Indiaâs western coast. Two consecutive years of unprecedented floods and landslides have killed hundreds of people in Kerala. However, the state government is still undecided on whether to notify areas falling under the Western Ghats as ecosensitive zones (ESZs) to avert further disasters. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), headed by noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil had in 2011 submitted a report recommending measures for the regionâs protection. The primary aim is to regulate certain activities around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to minimize the negative impacts of such actions on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.