Agra Feb 16 (IANS) As the deadline for filing objections to the draft notification for declaring the 10-km eco-sensitive zone around forest reserves ended Friday evening, builders fear the stalling of their projects in these areas.
The ban will affect promoters of new townships and urban clusters along the Agra-Delhi highway, close to the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, which comprises also the largest lake in Uttar Pradesh.
Sujoy Banerjee, deputy wildlife conservator in charge of Keitham Lake and Bird Sanctuary, where India's largest bear rescue centre is housed, told IANS: "We have sent our suggestions and proposals in respect of the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary and the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. District forest officers (DFO) of Etah, Mainpuri and other districts have also sent their responses."
Banerjee said he would prefer a five-km restriction on construction near the sanctuaries, and added that "it is for the apex court to decide".
Ten years ago, the National Board for Wildlife had recommended a 10 km eco-sensitive zone around wildlife parks and sanctuaries.
The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) kept stalling the recommendation till the Supreme Court directed state governments to file their responses.
The MoEF had issued guidelines in January 2011, but the state governments did not respond and kept postponing execution of the directives. In December 2012, the ministry set a deadline for all states to respond. That deadline expired Friday.
The ministry had warned that if the states did not respond before the deadline, the 10 km ban on construction would stand.
The guidelines say that commercial mining, setting up industries causing pollution, commercial use of firewood, establishment of hydro-electric projects, use or production of hazardous substances, tourism activities and discharge of effluents and solid waste in natural water bodies or terrestrial area are prohibited.
Industrial activities in Agra division under the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone extending over 10,000 sq km are already banned.
Environmental activist D.K. Joshi, a member of the Supreme Court monitoring committee, told IANS: "Builders and land mafia have been playing with the ecology of the area. Water bodies have disappeared. Forest cover is decreasing. We need clear and firm action and this can only come from the apex court. Bureaucrats lack the will to act against unscrupulous land grabbers patronised by politicians."