CRZ relaxations will take away decentralization gains achieved through years of conversation

Final

Excerpts from the submission by Meenakshi Kapoor and Kanchi Kohli of the Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Program to Arvind Nautiyal, Director, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC), on to the draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2018:

In India, most of the cities and industrial and business hubs are located on the coasts. Coasts support a population density of 500 people per square kilometer, which is way above the national average of 324 people per square kilometer. The draft CRZ Notification 2018 by allowing a slew of commercial activities on the coast, puts this already stressed space under further pressure. About 3200 fishing villages are located along the Indian coastline. Any change in the notification impacts not just them but other traditional livelihoods such as salt production, bivalve collection, grazing and agriculture. Already ten amendments have been made to the CRZ Notification. 2011 making way for more tourism and commercial projects, ports and industrial activities and ignoring dependence of these livelihoods on coastal resources. All this has been done without taking into account the status of CRZ compliance.

In the last four years, under our action research project, our Enviro-legal coordinators have complained to the State coastal zone management authorities (SCZMAs) about over 20 instances of CRZ violations on the coast of Gujarat and Karnataka alone. SCZMAs have also take note of several violations suo motu or on complaints. These violations have severely impacted communities’ ability to pursue their traditional livelihoods. In such situation, opening the coast for more commercial activities will put these communities at further risk. Besides, this larger concern, the comparison brings out the following concerns related to the proposed changes:

Reduction and relaxations in the zones

The draft notification proposes to limit the coastal regulation zone till 500 meters from the High Tide Line irrespective of where the hazard line falls. It proposes to limit the No Development zone for tidal-influenced water bodies to a maximum of 50 meters (instead of the earlier 100 metres) and for less populated rural areas to 50 meters (instead of earlier 200 meters). Relaxations have been proposed all across the CRZ to allow tourism, real estate and commercial projects. These relaxations will alter the present land use making main existing common use spaces such as fishing areas, fish drying and boat parking sites, salt marshes and grazing lands available for commercial and industrial development.

Removal of protective/preventive clauses

The CRZ Notification, 2011 has special sections for Goa, Kerala and Mumbai. In view of the tourism demands of Goa and Kerala and urban pressure of Mumbai, these sections granted certain relaxations to these areas but they also provided additional protection to Koliwadas, Goalhans and saltpans of Mumbai and Khazan lands of Goa. Through the draft Notification 2018, while the relaxations granted to these areas have been extended to the entire coastline of the country, the special provisions for protection of local livelihoods dependent on fisheries, salt making and other coastal ecosystems have been lifted.

Also, many activities such as land reclamation or bunding for erosion control or clearing of ports and waterways or defense projects in high eroding stretches of the coast were permitted in CRZ Notification 2011 only with the requirement of carrying out additional studies. This requirement has been removed from such activities. These activities, if conducted indiscriminately, could disturb the natural course of seawater.

Arbitrary decentralisation and re-centralisation of power

The Draft CRZ Notification 2018 suggests the following changes in powers concerning enforcement of the law. How all these decisions have been arrived upon is not clear from the notification.

  • It proposes that power to grant CRZ clearance to project proposals for CRZ I and CRZ IV i.e. the ecologically important areas and water areas should be with the MoEFCC. EIA Notification, 2006 provides criterion to decide whether a project needs to be appraised by the Centre or by the State. Currently, the same criterion applies to the projects proposed in the CRZ. Through this draft, that criterion is being sidestepped for a blanket oversight by the Centre for all coastal water, inter-tidal and ecologically sensitive areas. Why the state level bodies have been kept out of decision-making for CRZ I and IV areas is unclear.
  • The draft further states that self-dwellings of less than 300 sqm area can be granted approval by the respective local authority without the involvement of the State CZMA. While decentralisation has been attempted by empowering the local bodies to grant clearance to self-dwellings, coastal review of such projects has been bypassed in the name of avoiding hardship to coastal communities.
  • Similarly, all powers to demarcate the High Tide Line and Low Tide Line, which are the primary reference lines for demarcating the CRZ and different sub-zones in it have been concentrated with the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM). While to avoid inconsistency in tidal demarcation across the coast, the states had requested guidance and support from the Centre, the Centre has responded by reserving the authority to demarcate tidal lines only with the NCSCM.

Unacknowledged and unrealised role of the District Level Coastal Committees (DLCC)

Regarding the enforcement of the notification, the draft suggests that the state governments can delegate such responsibility to the level of district magistrate. DLCCs, which were created under the C’RZ Notification, 201 I as a district level institution for regulation of the coastal development with community participation, have not been commented upon. Creation of district level committee was a big gain made during the transition from CRZ 1991 to CRZ 2011.

In fact appraisal of self-dwellings could have also have the involvement of DLCCs. States such as Goa and Kerala, after realising the need for a district level coastal body, only recently have initiated the process of their constitution and their involvement in project appraisal. To uphold the true spirit of decentralisation where communities living on the coast can take part in decision-making, it is important that the DLCCs are made active. Involving DLCCs in implementation of the Notification not only helps State CZMAs keep a closer watch on CRZ compliance, but also add to the available human resources for the task.

Implications of hurried and exclusionary CZMP preparation

The Draft CRZ Notification 2018 suggests that the notification would come in force after the Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) made under CRZ Notification. 2011 are revised according to this draft notification. However the draft notification doesn’t take into account the following:

Suites are still struggling to complete CZMPs

The matter of CZMP preparation has assumed urgency due to an ongoing case in the National Green Tribunal. The Tribunal has set the deadline for submission of CZMP by the states as April 30. 2018 and MoEFCC is supposed to approve all the plans by July 31. 2018. So far, only Lakshadweep has submitted its plan with the MoEFCC. Kerala. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Goa have sought more time. Gujarat and Odisha are yet to conduct public consultations on their drafts.

Compromised public participation in CZMP preparation

In Tamil Nadu, Kerala. Karnataka. West Bengal and Maharashtra, public hearings on CZMPs took place in the beginning of this year. But the urgency to complete CZMP has had an impact on public participation- local communities have complained of not being informed well in advance of these consultations. CRZ maps not being available in regional language. In fact, fisherfolk of Tamil Nadu have long demanded that for public consultation, maps be made available in cadastral scale but that has not happened.

Communities who could participate in public consultations have highlighted discrepancy between the mapped and on-ground location of fishing areas, fish drying zones, saltpans, etc. They also pointed out several cases of regularisation of CRZ violations. CZMPs set the basis for coastal decision-making by recognising the existing use of the coastal space and demarcating the CRZ, NDZ and other zones. To ensure that none of the current legitimate coastal uses are left out of the CRZ maps, it is pertinent that they are prepared with meaningful and engaged public participation. It is understood that they need to be in place as soon as possible but they cannot be hurried at the cost of public engagement.

Overall, the draft Notification incorporates the 10 amendments made to the CRZ Notification 2011 in past. Many of these amendments were either made without inviting public comments on them or ignoring suggestions received on the drafts. It also incorporates several recommendations of the Shailesh Nayak Committee. The Committee review was a closed-door process that consulted only the state governments. However, while incorporating these changes in the draft notification, many new dilutions have also been slipped through. The draft notification states ‘livelihood security of fisher and other coastal communities’ as one of its objectives, but all these dilutions that have emerged from an exclusionary process, do not fulfill this mandate.

In the light of above facts, we request the following:

  • A wider and more open consultative process be put in place that allows for citizens, fishworker unions, SCZMA and DLCC members and others interested to put forth their concerns regarding coastal regulation.
  • A work plan be prepared with the involvement of communities for strengthening DLCCs’ role in coastal regulation, monitoring and enforcement.
  • A platform be created to enable communities and government to come together and co-design CZMP under CRZ Notification. 2011.

The current draft presents a governance mechanism, which has irreversible implications on how coastal areas are used and managed. It will also take away the significant gains of decentralization, which have emerged through years of conversation between policy makers, fisher unions, civil society organisations and coastal communities.

We sincerely hope that our concerns and suggestions are taken into consideration before any decision is made with respect to the draft notification. We would be willing to meet with the ministry and talk through these points.

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