Even as the Government of India is planning to have two Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs), one on the West coast, and another on the East coast, the advocacy group Centre for Policy Research, Namati Environment Justice Programme, has pointed towards lack of clarity on policy issues related to environmental and policy issues:
Twenty five years ago, on February 19, 1991, the Ministry of Environment issued the first Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification. These 25 years of implementation of CRZ Notification have seen extensive planning exercises, specialised institutions for coastal regulation, numerous violations and large coastal stretches given away to development projects. The CRZ Notification, 1991, saw multiple reviews and over 25 amendments, only to be turned into a piece of law that is difficult to understand and implement and hence to be replaced by a fresh Notification in 2011.
In the last one year, the 2011 legislation has already undergone six amendments. Only three of these amendments were preceded by draft notifications open for public comments. In June 2014, the Ministry had also constituted a committee under Dr Shailesh Nayak, Director, Ministry of Earth Sciences to review the 2011 law. The Committee submitted its report to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in October 2014 but was never made public. It is unclear whether these amendments made are on the basis of the committee’s recommendations or other research studies or recommendations. In spite of these amendments, the following main problems of the notification remain:
NO ULTIMATE OUTCOMES OF THE CRZ NOTIFICATION.
While the CRZ notification has been designed to regulate India’s coastline, there have not been any defined social or environmental outcomes attached to its implementation. The notification states its objectives as the protection of local communities living along the coast and the conservation of the coastline. However, it does not commit to any measurable outcomes that would help evaluate the performance of the law.
The CRZ Notification mandates District level committees to be formed in coastal districts with a minimum of three representatives of the traditional coastal communities. Several districts are yet to set these up. Besides, even where they have been constituted, they have not been given a role in decision-making. Their role in improving compliance and enforcement is limited to only toothless monitoring.
UNREALISED SCOPE FOR PARTICIPATORY PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT.
Coastal Zone Management Plans are either being prepared without any participation of coastal communities or not at all. This has caused huge problems in implementation of the law on the ground and led to many arbitrary decisions. The recent order of the National Green Tribunal to halt projects in Maharashtra till the plans are made is one fallout of this mess.
LIMITED CAPACITY OF COASTAL AUTHORITIES (CZMAs).
CZMAs are the main bodies implementing the CRZ notification, but almost all the members on these authorities are primarily associated with other government departments or academic institutions. Their part-time status, relying on offices of other institutions like GPCB, Departments of Environment along with financial constraints seriously challenges the efficient and regular functioning of CZMAs to carry out all their tasks.
WEAK MECHANISM FOR MONITORING, COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT.
Most SCZMAs do not have a public interface for redressal of grievances of coastal communities arising due to CRZ decisions and therefore no timely remedies are possible. Though, CRZ approvals are granted along with a list of conditions that a project authority has to comply with, the post clearance monitoring and compliance is missing on the ground.
Steps that need to be taken urgently to ensure the coastal law is upheld and supports the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities are:
- Any changes to the CRZ Notification should be based on the experiences gained from a quarter of a century-long implementation and in a democratic manner with active participation of the coastal communities and population.
- Local coastal communities must be members of district level committees. They should be involved in the process of project appraisals and enforcement.
- The law should be tied to clear and measurable indicators so that outcomes are of real use to coastal people and the environment. Without these, the CRZ is only a routine paperwork.
- Coastal maps must be created with full participation of coastal dwellers. Arbitrary clearances of coastal projects must be stopped until then.
- Coastal Authorities must be given administrative and financial support and powers to enforce actions against violators.