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Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) have been identified and notified by the Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests
(MoEF) since 1989. Notifications declaring areas as ESAs are issued under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. The
clauses of the EPA which allow for the notification of ESAs hold the possibility of realising landscape-level conservation.
However, these clauses have been used only by a few actors mainly because of the lack of knowledge about the scope of
ESAs and also due to the MoEFs ambiguity in notifying them.
The last decade has seen significant action around Ecologically Sensitive Areas at the national level. The MoEF has defined
the term ecological sensitivity. The criteria and procedure for designation of areas as ecologically sensitive have been
decided and environmental sensitivity has emerged as an important driver of conservation. Nevertheless, due to incomplete
information, many proposals that were submitted to the MoEF are still pending or were subsequently rejected as they did not
meet the MoEFs criteria.
Last year, a draft National Environmental Tribunal Bill was prepared by the MoEF and was due for discussion at the
subsequent session of Parliament. This new bill sought to dissolve all authorities set up under section 3(3) of the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which included all ESA authorities / committees and even the committee set up for
evaluating ESA proposals. It sought to transfer the powers of local ESA committees to the State Environment Impact
Assessment Authorities (SEIAA). Under these circumstances, the authors felt the
need to research and document thoroughly the process and experiences of declaration of ESAs in the country
so that future discussions on ESAs could be informed by these. An attempt has therefore been made here to
do this and provide both a national picture on ESAs as well as chapters on individual ESAs. This study was
carried out with the following objectives:
1.To compile the available information to the extent possible on the national processes around Ecologically Sensitive Areas;
2.To piece together the historical background of various Ecologically Sensitive Areas in the country,
declared by the MoEF;
3.To undertake a case-by-case analysis of the designated ESAs with respect to the current issues with their implementation;
4.To undertake a comparative analysis of all the notified ESAs;
5.To track the current status of ESA proposals submitted to the MoEF;
6.To understand the working of local monitoring committees/ authorities constituted to ensure the implementation of the
ESA notifications;
7.To understand the potential of ESAs as a conservation tool among other conservation measures.