Area around Mudumalai to be declared eco-sensitive zone

In a move that would prohibit construction and commercial mining activities and restrict hotels and resorts near the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on Thursday issued a draft notification declaring 438 sq. km. of area around the reserve as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ).

The reserve, comprising the wildlife sanctuary and the national park, extending over an area of 321sq. km, was declared a core/critical tiger habitat in 2007. Besides the core/critical tiger habitat, 367sq. km. is the buffer area in a total of 688sq. km. reserve area.

The reserve is a critical part of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve spread over 5,500sq. km.

Sustaining wildlife

“The area supports an ecologically sustainable habitat in the Western Ghats landscape for about 60-65 tigers, 600 to 800 Asian elephants and gaur apart from other animals of significance. This reserve harbours 227 species of birds, 50 species of fish, 21 species of amphibians, 34 species of reptiles,” the notification stated.

Once the eco-sensitive zone is declared around the reserve, commercial mining, setting up of industries causing pollution, establishment of major hydroelectric projects, use or production or processing of any hazardous substances, discharge of untreated effluents into natural water bodies or land area and setting up of new saw mills or brick kilns would be prohibited in the area.

Farming allowed

“The declaring of an eco-sensitive zone around the reserve would place some restrictions primarily on polluting industries. It doesn’t mean that agriculture activities in the area would be stopped. Also, resorts already present in the area would not be forced to stop functioning,” a senior official told
The Hindu
, explaining the notification.

The notification followed a Supreme Court order calling for an eco-sensitive zone around all national parks, he said.

The State government is to prepare a zonal master plan and monitor the activities in the area.

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