Maharashtra government completes CZMP public consultation amid protests in Palghar, SindhudurgUpdated: Oct 01, 2020, 01:11 IST
Despite a large number of protests at Palghar and Sindhudurg between Monday and Wednesday, against the draft coastal zone management plan (CZMP) maps, the state government on Wednesday evening said the public consultation process had been completed.
Environmentalists said the public hearing held at Palghar on Wednesday was chaotic and mismanaged. “There was strong opposition by the locals for the online hearing. Hundreds of participants were waiting outside the venue to be allowed to share their concerns. Police teams had been brought in to control the locals. It was pointed out to authorities that the CRZ notification 2019 was published in the local language only on September 25, three days before the public hearing on the draft CZMP’s of Sindhudurg and Palghar,” said Prasad Khale, senior conservation officer, Conservation Action Trust.
Mumbai-based environmental researcher Dhwani Shah said, “Palghar district is predominantly a tribal district with a majority of the population living in rural areas. During this pandemic, the state forced a majority of the senior citizens from fishing villages to step out for this hearing, which could have easily been deferred. What’s worse, state officials said they would not answer any questions and the process was just for recording submissions, making it undemocratic.”
“The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Chennai which has been authorised by the Centre to prepare the maps was not present at the public hearing, thus putting a question mark on the legality of the public hearing. We were told that the Chennai-based agency’s key personnel have contracted Covid-19 and were unable to attend. We questioned the haste with which the government was carrying out the public hearing, which could have been easily postponed to a later date when the pandemic scare is over,” said Bhushan Bhoir, social activist.
A complaint was filed by environment group Vanashakti before the Palghar collector stating the entire procedure was conducted haphazardly. “People in Palghar mostly fishermen and coastal farmers affected by this CZMP are not tech-savvy, and they should be given a physical public hearing at large public halls rather than such farcical proceedings,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.
Meanwhile, a simultaneous online hearing was underway remaining suggestions for Sindhudurg on Wednesday as well. “A large number of participants were not admitted through the online proceedings during Sindhurug’s hearings and our long list of objections remains unheard as the state has completed their namesake hearing process,” said Nandan Vengurlekar, district coordinator, CZMP awareness committee, Sindhudurg.
Collector prevented entry
Dr Manek Gursale, Palghar district collector was unable to enter the venue as the protestors sat on the road to block his official car. The collector tried to convince the protestors to let him pass as he was there to present a report to the Centre in regard to the public hearing. Finally Dr Gursale had to take an alternative route to reach the venue.
WHY WAS THE HEARING UNDERTAKEN
Draft CZMP maps were prepared by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) under the Union environment ministry in 2019 for all coastal districts in Maharashtra based on the 2019 Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The maps were published on January 22 this year. Using distinct colour codes, these maps demarcate CRZ areas (I to IV), high tide and hazard line, fishing zones, intertidal areas, mangrove forests and buffer areas, turtle nesting sites, cyclone shelters, koliwadas and gaothans. These also identify coastal areas that can be opened up for infrastructure development. Holding public consultation, especially with local communities, calling for suggestions and objections is compulsory before finalising the maps.
The public consultation process for all districts was completed by March 6 except Palghar and Sindhudurg. It was later slotted for March 21 for the two districts but owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was deferred. “Based on the Union environment ministry’s memorandum, an online public consultation was promulgated along with receiving submissions through offline means. Both would be considered. We are just following the simple process as directed by the Centre,” a senior state government official said.