In nod to climate change, govt amends coastal rules to include hazard line
The line, along India’s 7,500 km coastline, will take into account a possible rise in sea level due to climate change; it is expected to impact coastal projects.
The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules have been amended to introduce a ‘hazard line’ along India’s 7,500 km coastline. This will take into account a possible rise in sea level due to climate change. The union environment ministry issued a notification to this effect on July 2 and made it public on July 10.
While details remain classified until coastal states and union territories submit their coastal zone management plans (CZMPs), the addition of the hazard line is expected to impact future coastal projects as well as those sanctioned in the past. According to the notification, “The hazard line shall be demarcated by the Survey of India, taking into account the extent of the flooding on the land area due to water level fluctuations, sea level rise and shoreline changes (erosion/accretion) occurring over a period of time, and shared with the coastal states and union territories through the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Chennai.”
The Survey of India began mapping the hazard line in 2011 and in 2013, it was reported that the project would cost ₹1,156 crore. Data collection was completed by 2015 and this along with the hazard line maps were submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) over the past year.
Officials from the MoEFCC said while the high tide line (HTL) is the extent to which coastal waters can reach the farthest on land, the hazard line would take into account natural changes along the shore and the possible impact of climate change in coming years. The hazard line would be a useful tool for disaster management plans for coastal environments, said the notification. Future developmental and planning process in coastal areas will have to take into account the hazard line.
“The notification was issued with a view to reduce vulnerabilities of the coastal communities, ensure sustainable livelihood, and safeguard coastal areas,” said Arvind Kumar Nautiyal, director, MoEFCC. He said that in most areas, the hazard line would be near the HTL.
The CRZ laws have been amended three times already. The amendment concerning the hazard line has been added to the amendments made in 2011, which means it could impact coastal projects that have been sanctioned in the past.
For these amendments to come into effect, coastal states and union territories must submit their coastal zone management plans (CZMPs) for approval from the MoEFCC. “This is expected to be done within the next six months. The published CZMPs will have maps containing the new hazard line as well as the high tide line, and the distance between both. Once published, state governments will have to change already existing developmental activities, projects and alter fresh projects away from the hazard line,” said Nautiyal.
Environmentalists and experts said the identification of the hazard line needed to be done when CRZ notification was promulgated in 2011. “As far as climate change and sea level rise is concerned, the first draft CRZ notification was published in 1988 saying vulnerable areas should be kept free from development. This was 30 years ago, and the central government is setting up a hazard line now,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee of the environment group Conservation Action Trust, who is fighting petitions in the Bombay high court and Supreme Court regarding CRZ norms.
“The responsibility of demarcating this line was given to the Union environment ministry and was supposed to be done in 2011. Also, the data along the shoreline across the 7,500 km coastline is classified. Now whatever the data that the Survey of India will put out, we cannot question it as there is no reference point. This whole exercise was held up for so many years to allow major construction along the coastline of India, especially Mumbai,” said Goenka.
Supreme Court advocate and environment lawyer Sanjay Upadhyay said by having a new reference point, in this case the hazard line, the Central government has been shifting references and putting the coastal infrastructure, agencies, livelihood, and conservation efforts at risk.
“The MoEFCC has, time and again, been shifting the goal post. Over 14 years, from 1991 to 2005, the high tide line had not been demarcated at all. During this time, all developments that took place were grossly inappropriate. In 2005, the MS Swaminathan Committee issued the vulnerability index for coastal areas, and from then to 2011, there have been separate reference points with the development of coastal zone management plans, which are still underway.”
“The entire thing is being done in a piecemeal approach. But there is an immediate need for a balancing act with economic activities, conservation, and disaster management to protect our coast. Unfortunately, we are still stuck with a line,” said Upadhyay.