Ecologically Sensitive Areas of India || Everything You Need To Know

Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) or Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India around Protected Areas , National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. In this article, we are going to have a look at what these actually are and why are such areas important.


The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas. They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.


An ESA can go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002. In case of sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage are beyond 10 kilometres width, these are also included in the Eco-Sensitive Zones.
Further, even in the context of a particular Protected Area, the distribution of an area of ESA and the extent of regulation is not uniform and it can change as and when needed.

ESAs in India

Image Credit : Centre for Coastal Zone Management and Coastal Shelter Belt - Hosted by Institute for Ocean Management,Anna University Chennai - Sponsored by Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Govt of India

Environment Protection Act, 1986

  • This Act basically aims to implement the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environments which relate to the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property.
  • As far as ESAs are concerned, it does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”. 
  • However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards. 
  • Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 states that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas. 
  • The above two clauses are used by the government to declare ESAs..
  • Time to time, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change approves a comprehensive set of guidelines laying down parameters and criteria for declaring ESAs. 

Official Environment Protection Rules, 1986 document by the MoEFCC, Government of India can be found here



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The Radical: Ecologically Sensitive Areas of India || Everything You Need To Know
Ecologically Sensitive Areas of India || Everything You Need To Know
The Radical
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