Demand of the Question:
Introduction: Define Eco-sensitive zones
Body: Discuss its significance and the reasons why it could marginalise local communities and undermine conservation efforts in long run
Conclusion: Conclude with way forward
Eco Sensitive zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas are areas within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. ESZs are notified by Government of India under Environment Protection Act 1986 which allows restriction on activities of industries causing pollution or harm to the ecosystem and biodiversity in the vicinity of protected area. ESZ are

declared on the basis of Species Endemism and Rarity, Ecosystem vulnerability and Geomorphologic feature based such as uninhabited islands and origins of rivers among others
● It helps in minimising the impact of urbanisation and other developmental activities
● They act as ‘Shock Absorber’ for the protected area.
● They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
● ESZs help in in-situ conservation, which deals with conservation of an endangered species in its natural habitat, for example the conservation of the One-horned Rhino of Kaziranga National Park, Assam.
● Eco-Sensitive Zones minimise forest depletion and man-animal conflict. The protected areas are based on the core and buffer model of management, through which local area communities are also protected and benefitted.
● The activities in the ESZ would be of a regulatory nature rather than prohibitive nature, unless and otherwise so required so as to cause minimal disruption to the lives of locals
● Commercial mining, establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances etc are prohibited in Eco-sensitive zones to conserve sensitive area like westren ghats
● Most proposals do not follow ecological aspects of this exercise. Mostly distance from the protected area boundary is made the only criterion for defining ESZ and factors such as habitat connectivity and ecological integrity of the region are rarely considered for identifying the zones.
● Though ESZ does not affect the ownership rights of people on land resources, it restricts land-use changes. The tribal people who mostly reside in these areas are affected as their livelihood mostly depends on forest products.
● People who are living in biodiversity rich areas are mostly excluded from the consultation process to identify the ESZ. However, they are the one who will be directly affected by regulated or restricted activities.
● Buffer zones are already demarcated along with core areas in protected area. Therefore, declaring Eco-Sensitive zones further marginalizes forest and fringe communities and alienates them from conservation efforts.
● Restricting regular activities goes against the notion of cultural model of conservation and separates people and traditional knowledge from forest protection, which may prove to be detrimental for conservation in the long run.
● There are no quantifiable criteria defined for including or excluding an area in the ESZ, leaving it to the forest officials to arbitrarily take decisions.
As the experts are attributing the recent catastrophic floods in Kerala to the exploitative activities in Western Ghats, the issue of ESZ gains prominence. There needs to be a balance between development and biodiversity conservation. Centre should take all the states on board along with due representation from the local population in deciding the ESZ. Further, the declaration of ESZ

should be in line with the rights given to tribal population under Forest Rights Act-2006 and The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996(PESA-1996).
Q.10) Coral islands face many challenges with climate change being one of them. Comment. What measures can be taken to prevent further depletion?
Demand of the Question:
Introduction: Briefly introduce coral islands with suitable examples
Body: Mention factors that threaten coral islands.
Suggest some conservation measures like recognizing carrying capacity of each atoll, observing caution in using coral as building material, reducing sand loss from the atoll etc.
Conclusion: As per context
Coral islands develop from coral reefs either by uplift or by accretion. Coral islands may also be formed from atoll reefs wherein they manifest as a string of roughly circular islands with shallow lagoons. Examples of coral islands include Maldives, Kiribati islands, Lakshadweep etc.

  1. Global Warming: Corals survive in very narrow range of temperature. Warmer water stresses corals and causes coral bleaching. Bleached corals are weaker in strength.
  2. With climate change, acidity of oceans increases because of dissolution of carbon dioxide. This is the major cause of death of corals.
  3. Many coral islands are small and near sea level, so they are at constant threat from cyclones, storms and rising sea levels. As the ocean level rises, coral islands—and any infrastructure on them—are flooded and may drown altogether.
  4. Relatively rapid growth of the tourist industry, and the introduction of mechanized fishing.
  5. Coral mining, construction of groynes (barrier built out into the sea from a beach to check erosion and drifting), anchor damage and siltation caused by speedboats cause considerable damage to coral islands.
  6. Most tropical raised atolls have been dramatically altered by human activities such as invasive species introduction, phosphate mining and even bomb testing.
  7. Other threats include pollution, increased shipping traffic, risk of oil spills and dumping, inadequate waste disposal, and the overuse of water pumps and fertilisers for agriculture results in eutrophication and subsequent oxygen depletion
    Geo-engineering solutions: For example, island nations such as Maldives and Kiribati are fortifying their atolls by dredging the seafloor. Sand elevates certain areas and widens others, creating a more stable landmass.
  8. Political measures: The global agreements combating climate change such as Paris Accord must keep the needs of coral islands as top priority. Maldives and Kiribati have also taken steps to outline a permanent evacuation process should sea level rise threaten to drown inhabited atolls.
  9. Switching to sustainable livelihood measures: It is high time to recognize the carrying capacity of each coral island ecosystem and limit population growth, tourist foot fall etc. at these islands.
  10. Developing alternative livelihoods like establishing sustainable fisheries could significantly slow the decline of many reefs. Some atoll communities have taken advantage of their equatorial location and established launch sites for low-orbit satellites.
  11. In India, innovation such as Artificial reefs, made of concrete was deployed to protect further erosion of ecologically sensitive Vaan Island in the Gulf of Munnar. Further management techniques such as Creating Marine protected areas will limit damage caused by human activities. Therefore, an integrated approach at political, technical and community level is required to protect coral islands and mitigate the impacts of climate change.


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