NEW DELHI, Oct 8 - Alarmed by the unabated encroachment around major wildlife sanctuaries in Assam, the Centre has issued a draft notification extending the Eco-sensitive Zone around the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park (RGONP) to 25 km.
The Gazette notification, issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) on Tuesday, stated that it is necessary to conserve and protect the area, the extent and boundaries of the areas surrounding the protected areas of Orang National Park eco-sensitive zone from ecological, environmental and bio-diversity point of view.
�The Central Government hereby notifies as an area to an extent varying from 3 to 25 km around the boundary of RGONP in Assam, as the RGONP Eco-sensitive Zone,� the notification said.
The Eco-sensitive Zone now covers at least 45 villages located in and around the national park. This is significant because of allegation of massive encroachment of forest land around the national park.
The MoEF has also directed the Assam Government to prepare a zonal master plan within two years in consultation with local people and adhering to the stipulations. The master plan will be prepared also in consultation with all concerned departments, including Environment, Forest, Urban Development, Tourism, Municipal, Revenue, Agriculture, Assam State Pollution Control Board, Irrigation and PWD.
According to the notification, the master plan shall not impose any restriction on the approved existing land use, infrastructure and activities. The zonal master plan shall demarcate all the existing worship places, villages and urban settlements, types and kind of forest tribal areas. Moreover, the master plan shall regulate the development of Eco-sensitive Zone, so as to ensure eco-friendly development for livelihood, security of local community.
The notification has made it clear that the conversion of agriculture land within the Eco-sensitive Zone may be permitted on the recommendation of a eight-member monitoring committee, with the Deputy Commissioner as the chairman.
It was further ordered that the Environment Department of Government of Assam and State Pollution Control Board shall draw up guideline and regulation for the control of noise pollution in the Eco-sensitive Zone.
The draft notification has also put restrictions on vehicular movement. This is significant in light of frequent reports of death of endangered species in Kaziranga National Park in road accidents.
The notification has given a list of 30 activities, which are prohibited within the Eco-sensitive Zone. Activities like commercial mining, stone quarrying and crushing, setting up of saw mills, use or production of hazardous substances have been banned. The Centre also restricted setting up of thermal and hydropower projects within the Eco-sensitive Zone. Setting up of mobile towers have also been restricted.