On Sunday, the last of the four illegal apartment complexes in Maradu, Kerala, was razed by controlled implosion, marking the completion of the demolition drive of the waterfront highrises.
The razing of the four luxury apartments was ordered by the Supreme Court in May last year, for breaching Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The court had called the illegal constructions a “colossal loss” to the environment.
What are CRZ norms, and where do they apply?
In India, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Rules govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea. They restrict certain kinds of activities — like large constructions, setting up of new industries, storage or disposal of hazardous material, mining, reclamation and bunding — within a certain distance from the coastline.
After the passing of the Environment Protection Act in 1986, CRZ Rules were first framed in 1991. After these were found to be restrictive, the Centre notified new Rules in 2011, which also included exemptions for the construction of the Navi Mumbai airport and for projects of the Department of Atomic Energy. In 2018, fresh Rules were issued, which aimed to remove certain restrictions on building, streamlined the clearance process, and aimed to encourage tourism in coastal areas.
In all Rules, the regulation zone has been defined as the area up to 500 m from the high-tide line. The restrictions depend on criteria such as the population of the area, the ecological sensitivity, the distance from the shore, and whether the area had been designated as a natural park or wildlife zone.
The latest Rules have a no-development zone of 20 m for all islands close to the mainland coast, and for all backwater islands in the mainland.
For the so-called CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have been stipulated. In the densely populated rural areas (CRZ-IIIA) with a population density of 2,161 per sq km as per the 2011 Census, the no-development zone is 50 m from the high-tide level, as against the 200 m stipulated earlier. CRZ-IIIB category (rural areas with population density below 2,161 per sq km) areas continue to have a no-development zone extending up to 200 m from the high-tide line.
While the CRZ Rules are made by the Union environment ministry, implementation is to be ensured by state governments through their Coastal Zone Management Authorities. In the current case, the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) identified the CRZ violations.
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