Environmental Law Newsletter: In-Depth Analysis of Recent Supreme Court Order

Posted On - 6 April, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva

Issue Date: March 30, 2024


The recent pronouncement made by the Supreme Court of India in the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India and Others inter alia delves into complex legal and environmental issues. The Apex Court addresses concerns that are relevant to mining activities that take place in close proximity to conservation reserves, the delineation of Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs), and the prudent utilization of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund. With the intention of providing a comprehensive analysis of the directives issued by the Court.

Prohibition of Mining Activities Near Conservation Reserves:

Prohibition of mining activities within a ten-kilometer radius of wetland areas that have been designated as conservation reserves in accordance with Section 36(A) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 is a significant aspect of the order that was issued by the Court. As a means of highlighting the importance of regulatory compliance and the necessity of obtaining necessary clearances from statutory bodies, such as the National Board of Wildlife and the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), prior to beginning mining endeavors within ecologically sensitive zones, the Court emphasizes the necessity of obtaining clearances.

The Imperative of Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves:

The Court provides a comprehensive and in-depth explanation of the inherent significance of conservation reserves and community reserves in the context of protecting ecological integrity, preserving biodiversity, and promoting sustainable development. This document elucidates the crucial function that these reserves fulfill in the preservation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, as well as the preservation of flora and fauna, while also facilitating ecological connectivity between national parks and sanctuaries. In addition, the order emphasizes the applicability of relevant provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 to conservation and community reserves, thereby ensuring that these types of reserves have a robust legal framework that allows for efficient management and conservation.

Eco-Sensitive Zone Delineation and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA):

One of the most important aspects that the Court has addressed is the delineation of Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) that surround protected areas. These zones require careful Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to be conducted before any mining or development activities can be authorized within them. In order to mitigate the effects of anthropogenic pressures and ecological disruptions on sensitive ecosystems, the Court places a strong emphasis on the ecological significance of environmental special zones (ESZs) as crucial buffers. In addition, it requires states to reevaluate proposals for the delineation of environmental special zones (ESZs), taking into account ecological imperatives and conducting consultations with stakeholders. This ensures that a prudent balance is maintained between the preservation of the environment and the development of the environment.

Optimal Utilization of Compensatory Afforestation Fund:

As part of its investigation into the utilization of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund, the Court draws attention to the disparities that exist between states in terms of the allocation and expenditure of funds. With an emphasis on transparency and accountability in resource allocation, it requires the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to provide comprehensive data on the utilization of funds. Furthermore, the Court instructs states to ensure that funds designated for environmental conservation and afforestation endeavors are utilized in the most effective manner possible, with the goal of promoting sustainable ecosystem management and the preservation of biodiversity.


The recent order issued by the Supreme Court exemplifies the court’s proactive role in advancing environmental jurisprudence and fostering paradigms of sustainable development. The Court reaffirms its central role in protecting environmental interests and promoting ecological sustainability by addressing critical issues concerning mining activities, conservation reserves, and fund utilization while also addressing these issues. In order to lay the groundwork for robust environmental governance and jurisprudence in India, this order emphasizes the necessity of bringing environmental imperatives and developmental aspirations into harmony with one another.