Part of Odisha’s Balukhanda-Konark Sanctuary declared eco-sensitive zone

New Delhi: In a bid to conserve nature and manage consistent pressure from developmental activities, the central government has declared part of Odisha’s Balukhanda-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ).

The notification, dated May 19, declares 21.5 square km area out of the sanctuary’s 85 sq km as ESZ, including about 30 villages.

A diverse eco-system, the sanctuary, between Puri and Konark, extends to the Bay of Bengal. Situated on the mouth of Prachi river, it has a diverse variety of flora including cashew, animals like black bucks, spotted deer, hyenas, jungle cats, monitor lizards and marine turtles, and supports different mangrove vegetation.

The Central government has asked the state government to draft a Zonal Master Plan, within a period of two years in consultation with local people, to provide for “restoration of denuded areas, conservation of existing water bodies, management of catchment areas, watershed management, groundwater management, soil and moisture conservation, needs of the local community and such other aspects of the ecology and environment that need attention”.

It added that the plan will factor in improvement of all infrastructure and activities to be more efficient and eco-friendly.

The plan, according to the government, must also prohibit polluting activities, curb construction, land use change for industrial and commercial use, and promote development through white industries for the tribals. The state government has also asked to work on the waste management and rain water harvesting in the ESZ region.

“No use of tribal land shall be permitted for commercial and industrial development activities … No new construction of hotels and resorts shall be allowed within one km from the boundary of the Balukhanda-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary or upto the extent of the eco-sensitive Zone,” the notification said.

The move was being welcomed by the state’s conservationists.

“It’s a good step. All the sanctuaries in the country need a balance, espcially because they are enhabited and wildlife is also growing,” Odisha-based wildlife activist and conservationist A.K. Singh told IANS.