‘Govt plan may alter coastline’
A new draft government notification on coastal management allows development of greenfield airports in ecologically sensitive areas, reports Chetan Chauhan.Updated: May 14, 2008, 02:16 IST
A new draft government notification on coastal management allows development of greenfield airports in ecologically sensitive areas like mangroves, coral reefs and turtle nesting grounds, subject to environmental clearance.
The environment ministry draft notification on Coastal Zone Management (CZM) to be finalised in the next six months has environmentalists up in arms. “This notification makes construction of a new greenfield airports like the one proposed at Navi Mumbai possible,” said Debi Goenka of the Conservation Action Trust, a Mumbai-based NGO.
What has surprised environmentalists is the way the environment ministry inserted allowing greenfield airports in the draft notification. In the notification issued on May 1, there was no mention of allowing greenfield airports. But, an amendment notification was issued on May 9 to include them in the development activities to be allowed on India’s coastline.
“The government wants to help private developers at the cost of environment,” Goenka alleged.
In the much-diluted version of existing CMZ notification of 1991, the new draft notification intends to open India's entire coastline to economic activity. With this, the environment ministry seems to have accepted recommendations of a Planning Commission report on service sector that wanted relaxation in the environment norms to protect falling earnings of the Indian shipping industry.
The draft CMZ guidelines are constituted to strengthen India's 7,600-km coastline after the 2004 Tsunami and check CMZ violations.
Environmentalists say the draft notification, if implemented, would regularise all violations of the 1991 notification. It can happen with the draft guidelines recommending status quo for existing structures close to the coast. Moreover, the draft suggests having separate setback lines for different coastal regions depending on geomorphology, horizontal shoreline shift and elevation level of the sea. Till now, India has had a uniform setback line, where limited commercial activity is allowed, of 500 metres for ecologically sensitive areas and 200 metres for other coastal areas.
The ministry has termed the uniform vulnerability line outdated. Ministry officials, however, admitted such a line could be a major headache. Environmentalists say monitoring differential setbacks would be a tough task for the environment ministry.