CRZ 2019 looks at coast as an industry, mulls real estate, port development: Experts
Coastal communities along the Indian coastline have raised concerns about the safety of their livelihood as natural disasters are becoming frequent.
Ahead of World Oceans Day on Monday, Goa-based coastal marine policy researcher Sarita Fernandes compiled a report on how all coastal states and union territories along the country’s 7,600 km coastline have objected to the coastal regulation zone (CRZ), 2019, norms through legal mediums, protests, and research publications over the past year.
“Rather than having a strong coastal policy to protect ecosystems and stakeholders, the CRZ 2019 looks at the coast as an industry with promising real estate and port development as key stakeholders,” said Fernandes. “Rough estimates say at the CRZ 1991 was amended 25 times and 2011 rules were amended 15 times which clearly shows that the instruments which are easily mouldable cannot instil confidence for sound coastal and ocean management.”
The report highlights how the fishing community and citizens in Maharashtra have moved the Bombay high court and Supreme Court (SC) against proposed projects that received CRZ clearance such as Coastal Road, bullet train and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in Arabian Sea that propose to reclaim mangroves, wetlands, fishing beds and marine wildlife habitats like reef building corals, that are all protected under CRZ 2019 itself.
Mumbai-based activist BN Kumar said, “Maharashtra cannot think about a blue economy scheme without maintaining blue waters properly.”
Goa has challenged the entire policy itself seeking protection to ecologically sensitive areas such as Khazan lands and turtle nesting sites. “India’s coasts have for long been vulnerable to climate change impacts and localised disasters,” said Kanchi Kolhi, an environmental governance expert with Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research.
“The recent cyclones are the newest reminders of this. However, the CRZ 2019 has been designed to claim most vulnerable coastal spaces for highways, industry, airports, real estate and even sewage treatment plants. It has assumed that these are empty lands, either devoid of environmental risks or where vulnerability can be circumvented with technology,” said Kohli.
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have objected CRZ clearances issued for major ports affecting lakhs of traditional fishers, the report said adding that citizens groups from Vishakapatnam have petitioned the government on the omission of the hazard line in the new CRZ 2019. “India’s coastal and ocean management really needs a rehaul,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, Supreme Court lawyer. “As far as regulatory instruments are concerned a notification issued as early as 1991 in the form of CRZ 1991 later amended in 2011 and now in 2019 clearly suggests that a loose instrument cannot be appropriate for sound coastal and ocean management,” Upadhyay said.
Odisha and West Bengal, which recently witnessed cyclone damage, have raised an alarm about the reduction of the high tide line and NDZ risking the safety of more citizens along major beaches, that also happen to be the country’s largest turtle nesting grounds (Odisha). “Between 1991 and 2019, the only positive thing to happen was the introduction of CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 nautical miles seaward). Apart from that there have only been relaxations to allow commercial exploitation of the coast,” said environmentalist Debi Goenka.
A senior environment ministry official said, “CRZ 2019 was nothing more than enhancing previous coastal protection norms and combining sustainable development through tourism and livelihood opportunities, which is helping us achieve a balance and the concept of blue revolution.”
Sanjai Jalla, from the Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM) under the Union environment ministry said, “The overall supervision and monitoring from the high tide line onwards has become very active over the past six to seven years. There is a dedicated team working on this, which is developing state project management units. Their primary job is to protect the coastal regions and not to allow uncontrolled activities and illegal developments. This is getting further enhanced under CRZ 2019.”
What the CRZ 2019 rules say?
The norms, based on recommendations of Dr Shailesh Nayak-led committee, relaxed previous CRZ norms (1991 and 2011), to allow development closer to the coast. It increased floor-space-index for coastal cities, up to 15% FSI for no development zones (NDZ). It reduced the width of the creek from the high tide line to 50 metres from the earlier limit of 100 metres. It limited CRZ to the first 500m of land from high tide line (extent till which coastal waters can reach the farthest on land) and not till the hazard line (natural changes along the shore due possible impacts of climate change). Eco-tourism activities were allowed in ecologically fragile areas, mining activities could be regulated, redevelopment of fishing villages, and identifying open spaces and parks as NDZ among many other decisions.
Coral bleaching along major coastal zones in India during May: BNHS
Mumbai: Pre-monsoon bleaching of coral reefs (schedule-I species) under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, took place during the month of May across the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, and Lakshadweep, said Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
“Significant bleaching was expected as sea surface temperatures ranged between 30-32 degrees Celsius. We have images from all these areas with 50% tridacna (giant saltwater clams), which was indicative of high bleaching,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS.
Corals can survive narrow range distributions with temperatures ranging from 18-24 degrees Celsius. “Beyond 29 degrees Celsius continuous incidents of bleaching will take place,” said Apte adding that the next assessment of the marine ecosystems will be taken during the post-monsoon period.