Indian Supreme Court restricts mining in forest areas

New Delhi, Jun 3 (EFE).- The Supreme Court of India ordered on Friday the creation of an Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of at least one kilometer in the country’s protected forests, and banned mining in sensitive areas such as animal reserves or national parks.

Inside the ESZ, no permanent structure can be constructed, and those that have already been erected will have to be reported to the court within a maximum of three months, said a three-judge bench of the apex court, according to LiveLaw, a media specialized in legal and judicial affairs of the country.

In case a forest area currently has a protected area greater than one kilometer, or if any statutory instrument prescribes a higher limit, then such extended boundary shall prevail, the judges said.

Moreover, the court said all mining activities within a national wildlife sanctuary or a national park would be disallowed.

These decisions were welcomed by environmental organizations such as Wildlife First.

“The last remaining of wilderness needs to be protected at all costs, and from that perspective the SC order in fact is a welcome move,” Wildlife First’s co-founder Praveen Bhargav told EFE.

“What was happening was that many states were trying to declare a eco sensitive zone (ESZ) of just 100 meters,” leading to complaints from the local population, added the environmentalist, who has previously advised the government on wildlife.

A ruling by the Supreme Court in 1996 decreed that any wooded area regardless of its ownership, recognition or classification should be considered as a forest area and incorporated into the government register.

The order was issued following the complaint of a 66-year-old Indian man, who thus stopped the indiscriminate felling of trees and non-forest activities in forests throughout the country, something that from then on required prior government authorization.

However, the granting of such permits mainly for mining projects remains in place, causing numerous protests in India, many of which are led by tribal communities against being forced to leave their ancestral settlements.

One such protest took place on May 11, when a group led by indigenous women camped in the forests to criticize the government’s plan to clear 850 hectares to expand an open cast coal mine.

India has 565 wildlife sanctuaries and 106 national parks that barely account for five percent of the national territory, according to data from the Wildlife Institute of India. EFE


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