The Bombay high court has directed the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to finalise the much delayed new draft coastal zone management plan by March 31, 2017.
The plan is crucial because it is prepared for each coastal district in the state, marking zones where development or construction work can be allowed. Based on such maps, the MCZMA and the state authorities grant clearances to construction and development projects along the coastline.
The last CZM plan expired on January 31, 2015, but in the absence of a new plan, the authorities have been extending its validity from time to time.
In February 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a blanket ban on construction activity along the coastline till the MCZMA comes up with the new maps and plan.
The MCZMA, however, appealed against the NGT order before the Bombay HC.
While the NGT order was subsequently stayed by a bench led by Justice VM Kanade, in the last hearing earlier this month, the bench asked the MCZMA to detail the reasons behind the delay in coming up with the new plan.
The coastal authority explained that that the ‘mammoth’ task was taking sometime as they are drawing up various maps and consulting expert institutes across the country for the plan.
It also sought a year’s time to finalise the plan, saying that “after the draft plan is finalised, public objections will have to be invited, and thereafter the final approval will be secured. This will take at least a year.”
Their request for a year’s time, however, was vehemently objected to by NGO Vanshakti, the respondent in the case. It had taken the MCZMA to the NGT that had led to the February ban. It argued before the HC that the new maps were “significant to check the unrestricted development of the coast and must be finalised at the earliest”.
The bench took note of the “enormity of the task”, and granted the MCZMA an extension of three months, directing it to finalise the new plan before March 31, 2017 and submit a compliance report in the court.