With June 16 set as the last date to receive public comments and suggestions on the Draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification- 2018 released by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on April 18 this year in the public domain, the fishers continue their nation-wide protest demanding to scrap the draft. In a novel protest, postcards will be sent on Wednesday to the fishing villages seeking to reject CRZ draft and to replace it with a comprehensive law to protect CRZ. While the draft has raised concerns triggering a debate among scientists in Kerala.
The fishers led by National Fish Workers Forum (NFF) organised a nationwide public protest on June 11 raising the slogan `Restore our Coastline, Secure our Livelihoods’. The coastal community had indicated that they will continue their agitation till such a notification is withdrawn by the Centre.
“We will continue the nation-wide agitation to reject the draft CRZ which forms part of the Centre’s move to dilute CRZ rules permitting real estate and corporates even in the environmentally critical CRZ-1. We plan to send postcards to the fishers villages with the message to reject draft CRZ and to replace it with a comprehensive law to protect the coastal zone,” NFF general secretary T Peter told.
“On the pretext of tourism development and eco-tourism, the CRZ-1 region where no construction activity was permitted till date will now be taken over by real estate and corporate lobby. We will not permit the centre to issue such a notification which is detrimental to the coastal zone, mangroves, and environment. Such construction activity if permitted along the shores will deplete the marine fisheries and will prove a death knell to the livelihood of fishermen which cannot be permitted,” he said.
Existing CRZ notification 2011, refers to regions in the proximity of India’s 7000 km long shoreline where buildings, tourism facilities, industrial projects and residential facilities which are highly regulated. In most cases it begins from the high tide line (HTL) to about 500 metres towards the landward side. No construction activity is permitted in 500 metres from the coast according to the CRZ rules of 2011. It is sub-divided into regions based on proximity to the sea and to protect coast and environment. CRZ notification 2011 based on the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 of the centre was with a view to conserve and protect the unique environment of coastal stretches and marine areas, besides livelihood security to the fishers and other local communities in the coastal areas and to promote sustainable development based on scientific principles taking into account the dangers of natural hazards, sea level rise due to global warming.
In 2011 notification, CRZ-1, classified as the environmentally most critical with ecologically sensitive areas comprising mangroves, sand dunes, coral reefs, turtles and birds nesting ground is a highly protected zone with no construction activity permitted. CRZ-II constitutes the developed land areas up to or close to the shoreline, within the existing municipal limits or in other existing legally designated urban areas, CRZ –III Land areas that are relatively undisturbed including rural areas along the coast and includes area up to 50 metres from the HTL on the landward side which is earmarked as the `No Development Zone’ (NDZ). CRZ-IV constitutes the water area and sea-bed area between the Low Tide Line (LTL) up to 12 nautical miles on the seaward side is earmarked as CRZ-IV A.
Now, this current draft notification indicates that all development activities including eco-tourism may be permitted in CRZ-1 to CRZ-IV regions provided they conform to state-approved coastal zone management authorities (CZMA) plans. “All development activities and projects in CRZ-I and CRZ-IV areas, which are regulated or permissible as per this notification, shall be dealt with by MOEF&CC for CRZ clearance, based on the recommendation of the concerned CZMA,” said officials of Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA).
While senior scientists of Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) raised a mixed opinion on the draft as they point out that it lacks clarity and are concerned over certain sections which relax CRZ norms.
KSCSTE chief scientist Dr Kamalakshan Kokkal that certain sections of the draft CRZ notification are more stringent than previous notification in 2011. “Current notification considers Vembanad backwater area as a critically vulnerable coastal area’ with strict CRZ norms, while in 2011 notification, CRZ at Vembanad too was relaxed based on the area from HTL. In the current draft notification, in CRZ-3A with a population density of above 2161 per sq.km, construction will be permitted 200 metres from HTL. But it is not clear whether it is HTL from the sea, we presume it to be from the sea. In villages with the population density below 2161 per sq.km, classified as CRZ-3B no developments are permitted in 50 metres from HTL“. If there is a state or national highway, CRZ is relaxed as constructions and resorts are permitted even in CRZ-3, though in certain areas it calls for approval by coastal zone management authority, he said.
In this draft, CRZ rules apply only to public mangroves with a controlled buffer zone around and not to private mangroves. Earlier, Kerala had mangroves in about 830 sq. km. but it is also depleted with indiscriminate quarrying and now 50 sq.km and that too most of the mangroves is in private land. So if it is implemented, Kerala will deplete most of its mangroves which will affect the environment as mangroves stabilises the coastline and prevent sea erosion, he said.
KSCSTE senior scientist P Harinarayanan also told that though in this draft notification CRZ-3A is diluted permitting development after 50 metres from the HTL, it is expected to be more stringent as no construction in CRZ area will be permitted without a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) and eco-tourism projects will be permitted only in the identified tourism hotspots as designated and mapped by the tourism department”.
“Even with existing CRZ rules, there are many violations by real estate and corporates. Now this draft notification by the Centre, if implemented, will offer leeway to their ambitions. This notification will not help protect the coastal zone, mangroves or environment in any way,” an environmental scientist from the State said.