Centre Proposes Eco-Sensitive Zone Around Dachigam

Srinagar: The Centre has come up with a draft proposal to declare 137.75 square kilometres around Dachigam national park, Thajwas (Baltal) and Overa-Aru wildlife sanctuaries as eco-sensitive zones.

In a notification, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has proposed that the eco sensitive zone shall be of 137.75 square kilometers with an extent 0 (zero) to 9.90 kilometers around the boundary of Dachigam National Park, Thajwas (Baltal) wildlife sanctuary and Overa-Aru wildlife sanctuary.

“The zero extent of the eco-sensitive zone is towards the South and South-West side of Overa-Aru Wildlife sanctuary as the Eco-Sensitive Zone boundary passes along the important tourist destination of Pahalgam and Nunwan Camp, the base camp of the famous annual pilgrimage Amarnath Yatra.

Further, the Pahalgam area is under high demand for tourist infrastructural development and is notified under the Development Act as the local area for Pahalgam Development Authority. Also, the area has a sizable resident population and infrastructure,” reads the notifications.

The ministry has asked the public to submit its suggestions over the proposal within 60 days.

The natural boundaries of Dachigam National Park, Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary and Thajwas Wildlife (Baltal) Sanctuary are connected at landscape level.

“The boundary of Dachigam National Park on North and North Eastern side merges with Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary while as Overa–Aru Wildlife Sanctuary on its North and North-Eastern side merges with Thajwas Wildlife Sanctuary,” reads the notification.

These protected areas hold a significant population of some of the important/endemic species of animals, birds and vegetation. “The eco-sensitive zone proposed makes these areas as one unit and will help gene flow across these areas to flourish biodiversity,” the notification states.

The draft notification proposes that all new and existing mining (minor and major minerals), stone quarrying and crushing units shall be prohibited with immediate effect except for meeting the domestic needs of bona fide local residents including digging of earth for construction or repair of houses within the eco- sensitive zone.

It also states that new industries and expansion of existing polluting industries in the eco-sensitive zone shall not be permitted.

But the notification states that non-polluting industries shall be allowed within eco-sensitive zones as per classification of Industries in the guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board in February, 2016, as amended from time to time.

The notification also proposes a ban on setting up of new saw mills, brick klins, and establishment of hydroelectric projects within ESZ.

“No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within one kilometer of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of eco-sensitive zone, whichever is nearer.

“Provided that, beyond one kilometer from the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of eco-sensitive zone whichever is nearer, all new tourist activities or expansion of existing activities shall be in conformity with the Tourism Master Plan and guidelines as applicable,” the notification reads.

According to the notification, a 22-member committee for monitoring implementation of eco-sensitive zone notification shall be headed by divisional commissioner, Kashmir.

The deputy commissioners of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Anantnag and Pulwama will be among its members.

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