AHMEDABAD: The Union ministry of forests and environment has finally cleared an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of 326.26 sq km around the Marine National Park and Marine Sanctuary situated in Jamnagar. Of this, 208.58 sq km is towards land, 105.14 sq km towards the sea and 12.54 sq km area is covered by rivers. The Centre has also announced the formation of a State-level Eco-Sensitive Monitoring Committee (SESZMC).

The notification announcing the ESZ states that the marine sanctuary covers 457.92 sq km and the national park covers an area of 162.89 sq km. Further, it is ringed by a cluster of 42 islands and many of them are fringed by coral reefs.

The zone shall include area up to a length of one kilometer from the coastal boundary towards land; area within 200 metre towards the sea from the boundary of the Marine National Park and Sanctuary and the area within 250 km width from the midpoints of the 31 rivers flowing into the Gulf of Kutch. The lengths of these rivers vary by up to 5 kilometer.

Officials said the Centre has also banned the use of mechanized fishing trawlers in the sanctuary, the river and even in the sea. Mechanized trawlers can adversely affect marine and aquatic life.

The Centre has also directed that precautionary measures have to be taken during transportation of goods to ensure that dust particles do not get sprayed on mangroves and other flora and fauna. Also, the centre has directed that the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and industrial units using their jetties will have to take measures to ensure that dust particles from their godowns or consignments do not pollute the environment.

The industries and the GMB have also been directed that preventive measures should be taken to ensure that there is no oil spill from any ship or even fishing trawlers. Existing industries such as salt manufacturing units, ship-breaking and building units and shipping yards, among others situated along the coast will not be allowed to discharge effluents, slurry and other waste into the eco-sensitive zone. The industries have also been cautioned against leakage of brine water or harmful chemicals into the zone.

SESZMC members

* Chief Secretary, Gujarat govt will be chairman.

* Representative of the Department of Urban Development, Gujarat govt

* Representative of Ports and Transport Department, Gujarat govt

* Three representatives from NGOs to be nominated by Gujarat govt

* Regional Officer, Gujarat State Pollution Control Board

* Ecology expert from reputed institution or university

* Jamnagar district collector or his representative

* Director, Marine National Park and Marine Sanctuary.

* Director, Department of Environment, Gujarat govt as member secretary.

Tough regulations

* No new polluting industries shall be allowed to be set up within the ESZ. Non-polluting industries may be considered provided they have a minimum of 50-meter-wide green belt.

* Farmhouses, hotels, resorts and such activities that might lead to unregulated tourism shall be strictly controlled and monitored by the Monitoring Committee.

* No mining and crushing shall be allowed within the ESZ and no major changes in landscape that affect the hydrology and ecology of the region, shall be allowed.

* Felling of trees or forests should be as per the 'working plan' or 'management plan' approved by the Competent Authority.

* Tourism activities shall be as per the Tourism Master Plan which shall emphasize eco-tourism, eco-education and eco-development. They will be prepared by the Department of Tourism in consultation with the Department of Environment and Forests.

* Extraction of groundwater for agriculture and domestic consumption of the occupier of land shall be allowed. Extraction of groundwater for industrial, commercial use shall require prior written permission, including for the amount that can be extracted, from the State Ground Water Board and the Monitoring Committee. Also steps have to be taken to prevent contamination or pollution of water, even from agricultural activities. Further, the authorities will have to see that no untreated or industrial effluent is allowed to be discharged into any water body or on land within the ESZ.

* Other restrictions include those imposed on the use of plastics, noise pollution, solid wastes disposal, and protection of natural springs within the ESZ.