Cabinet’s clearance to new Coastal Regulation Zone notification sets off alarm bells
The Cabinet cleared the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification on Thursday allowing for construction up to 50m of the high tide line, and temporary structures only 10m from it in a move that environmental experts and fisherfolk said would ruin the coastal environment.
The new notification relaxes various provisions of the CRZ 2011 notification, including the reduction of no-development-zone to 20 metres for all islands from the earlier 50 or 100 metres (depending on the type of island).
The new notification allows for greater real estate and tourism development on the coast, but could come at a significant cost to the environment.
Fishermen’s unions have warned of a national level agitation if the notification comes into force because it doesn’t address their concerns and makes the coastline vulnerable to environmental disasters.
The CRZ 2018 also “de-freezes” the current Floor Area Ratio (FAR) caps facilitating real estate development in coastal urban areas and allows for a no-development zone (NDZ) of only 50 metres from high tide line (HTL) as opposed to 200 metres from HTL in CRZ 2011 in populated coastal rural areas. Environmental clearances for projects in CRZ areas have also been simplified—CRZ clearances are needed only for those projects located in CRZ 1 zone or in ecologically sensitive areas and for CRZ VI zone (area between low tide line and 12 nautical miles seaward). A new feature has been added which allows for temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, drinking water facilities etc on beaches at a minimum distance of only 10 metres from HTL.
Fisherfolk and environmental experts say the notification will spell disaster for India’s 7,500 km long coastline. The National Fishworkers Forum and other state fishworker unions submitted more than 100000 representations to the environment ministry opposing the draft notification released in April 2018. “During cyclone Ockhi last year and Gaja this year, locals noticed that sea water entered 3 to 4 km inland in Tamil Nadu. After the Tsunami in 2004, the entire coastline of TN was declared eco-sensitive...Sand dunes which protect the coast from seawater intrusion will be destroyed completely if temporary structures are allowed...We will oppose this notification tooth and nail and take to the streets to protest,” said Olencio Simoes, Vice Chairman of National Fishworker’s Forum. He added the relaxations are being made to facilitate government’s Sagarmala project for inland waterways to drive industrial development. “The entire 7,500 km coastline is used by fishworkers for landing canoes...if you allow development within 50 metres of HTL it means there is no coastline left for us,” he added.
Union law minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad while announcing the Cabinet decision on Friday said the government received a large number of representations to revoke the 2011 CRZ notification and that the current notification is a good blend of “development and sustainability.” “The changes brought about ...will add to creating additional opportunities for affordable housing…boost tourism in terms of more activities, infrastructure and opportunities,” the environment ministry’s statement said.
The new CRZ notification is based on recommendations of the Sailesh Nayak (former secretary, ministry of earth sciences) headed committee. “The committee was opaque and based its findings on the demands of state governments. There has been no scope for public dialogue or consultation with coastal communities... I think its made with two projects in mind Sagarmala, the blue economy and affordable housing,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).