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The Centre has told the National Green Tribunal that the proposal for declaration of eco- sensitive zone (ESZ) around the Kedarnath Wildlife sanctuary may take 6-8 months to finalise.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) told the green panel that the procedure was a "long drawn" process and involved consultation with the states and seeking comments from the public after publication of the draft notification giving 60 days time.
"Final notification declaring eco-sensitive zone around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks are issued after following the due process of scrutiny, consultation and also seeking comments from the public as stated.
"On the basis of the proposal submitted by the state government and recommended by the eco-sensitive zone expert Committee looking into the environmental protection, the final notification is issued," the Environment Ministry said.
The submissions were made in an affidavit filed by the Ministry in response to a plea filed by environment activist Kavita Ashok seeking execution of its December 10, 2015 order directing the state to frame an aviation policy for the eco- sensitive Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary.
The NGT, in its order, had asked the state government to issue directions in consonance with the aviation policy with specific reference to the eco-sensitive zones at Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary in relation to the height and level of noise that helicopters should be permitted to generate.
The wildlife preserve is known for its dense forests having trees like oak, chir, pine, birch, alpine, besides rhododendron meadows and numerous flowering plants of Himalayas. It is also a home for endangered and rare species like Musk Deer and Himalayan Tahr (a type of wild goat).
A large number of pilgrims, intending to avoid the 16 km trek to visit the Kedarnath shrine in Rudraprayag district, opt for the chopper services to reach the destination.
The plea, filed through advocate Gaurav Bansal, had raised concern over the looming threat to the flora and fauna due to regular operation of helicopters in the eco-sensitive zone in the state.
The petitioner, who has also sought imposition of penalty for non-compliance of the order, contended that helicopter operations in this area for religious tourism has "seriously disturbed the eco-system and fauna of Kedarnath Sanctuary".
It had also alleged that the authorities have till date neither acted on the interim measures as suggested by Wildlife Institute of India, nor have declared the Eco Sensitive Zone for Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary.
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