Mumbai: The Centre has declared two wildlife sanctuaries near Mumbai as 'Eco-Sensitive Zone'(ESZ), according to Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar.
There are 11 more such ESZs in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh,
The two wildlife sanctuaries in Maharashtra are Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS) and Tansa Wildlife Santuary (TWS), both lush green areas spread across several hundred square kms in Palghar and Thane districts adjoining Mumbai. They also serve as the catchment areas for lakes and reservoirs supplying drinking water to the country's commercial capital.
"I have approved the final ESZ notification in respect of TWLS in Maharashtra. This will help scientific conservation of eco-systems and at the same time will give relief to farmers, artisans, rural people, small businesses in the area between final ESZ and 10 km from the protected areas, which was banned earlier," Javadekar said in tweets on Friday.
The total protected area of the TWLS is around 86 sq km and will have the ESZ of 67 sq km. For the TWS, the total protected area would be around 305 sq kms with the ESZ of around 490 sq km which will also include 150 villages.
Both the TWLS and TWS are ranked as major habitats for several wildlife, including leopards.
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali, which is sprawled across Mumbai's north-east and north-western suburbs, itself is home to around 45 leopards, different varieties of deer, Sambar, four-horned Antelope, Rhesus Macaque, Bonnet Macaque, monkeys, grey Langur, Indian Flying Fox, spot-Striped Hyena and a large number of birds and insects.
Leopards often stray into the suburban residential areas like Dahisar, Borivali, Kandivali, Malad, Goregaon, Jogeshwari, Andheri, Powai, Bhandup, Kanjurmarg and Mulund, and other green areas in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
Experts said that declaring an ESZ, or a buffer zone, around a wildlife reserve would help conserve the ecosystem since only agriculture, a few small scale industries and minor infra-works are permitted within the ESZ.
Maharashtra had proposed the ESZ around TWLS and TWS forests in August 2016.