The draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2018, which was released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) last week, has the potential to change the way coastal stretches in India are governed. India’s coastline runs over 7,500 kilometres.
The new draft if implemented will not only have an effect on how common areas used by fisherfolk are managed, but also bifurcate coastal zones along rural areas based on population density. Environmentalists claim that the draft has opened up fragile inter-tidal areas to real estate agents, and framed with an intent to favour large-scale industry at the cost of fishing communities.
Changes in the new draft
The purpose of the current notifications vis-à-vis the previous one released in 2011 remains more or less the same. The new draft aims to “conserve and protect the unique environment of coastal stretches and marine areas, besides livelihood security to the fisher communities 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….”
A major change in the new draft pertains to the CRZ limits on land along “tidal influenced water bodies”. The proposed limit has been reduced from 100 metres to 50 metres or the width of the creek, whichever is less.
– Mapping of high tide and hazard lines
The draft makes the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) the final authority to lay down standards for High Tide Line (HTL). Earlier the demarcation was carried out by one of the agencies authorised by MoEF, on recommendations of the NCSCM. The hazard line, which was demarcated by the Survey of India (SOI), has been delinked from the CRZ regulatory regime, and will now be used as a “tool” for disaster management and planning of “adaptive and mitigation measures.” Pooja Kumar from the Chennai-based Coastal Resources Centre points out that the 2011 notification placed a lot of importance on the hazard line. “The 2018 notification takes away the protection that the hazard line could provide; instead, it merely states that the hazard line should be used as a tool for disaster management. This means that one can build in these areas after preparing an environment assessment report stating that certain precautions have been considered,” she said.
– Bifurcation of CRZ-III areas
CRZ-III areas — land that is relatively undisturbed such as in rural areas, and do not fall in areas considered close to shoreline within existing municipal limits — have been divided into two categories:
CRZ-III A refers to rural areas with a population density of 2,161 people per square kilometre or more as per the 2011 Census. Such areas shall have a “No Development Zone” (NDZ) of 50m from the HTL, the draft notes.
CRZ-III B refers to rural areas with a population density lesser than 2,161 people per square kilometre. Such areas shall continue to have an NDZ of 200m from the HTL.
Kumar questions the accuracy of data that is used for classification. “We had a look at 2011 Census [data], and only state-wise population density is available, so how does one narrow down to the coastal region?” she enquires.
Kanchi Kohli, a researcher at the Centre for Policy Research, pointed out that revenue records are not available of how many people live in some of the CRZ-III areas. “They [through the draft] want to open up certain parts of the coast. It is clear that the state governments have asked for this. Some of these common areas are used by fisherfolk to dry fish and park their boats,” she said.
– Projects that require MoEF’s approval
Only those projects located in CRZ-I (environmentally most critical) and CRZ-IV (water and seabed areas) shall require MoEF clearance. All other projects shall be considered by Coastal Zone Management Authorities (CZMAs) in the states and union territories.
The draft also allows for construction of roads and roads on stilts, “by way of reclamation in CRZ-1 areas”, only in exceptional cases for “defence, strategic purposes and public utilities,” to be recommended by the CZMA and approved by the Ministry. However, it does not explicitly state what strategic projects are.
Interestingly, it notes that in cases where roads are constructed through mangroves or are likely to damage the latter, “a minimum three times the mangrove area affected/ destroyed/ cut during the construction… shall be taken up for compensatory plantation….”
– Floor space index for CRZ-II
While the 2011 notification had frozen the floor space index or floor area ratio for CRZ-II areas at 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels, the new draft proposes to de-freeze the same and permit FSI for construction projects as prevailing on the date of the new notification.
Kohli points out that certain kinds of buildings in metro cities such as Chennai and Mumbai have been exempted from CRZ -II areas. “Certain buildings will be managed by FSI through Town and Country Planning Department, and will not require CRZ clearances,” she said.
Kohli notes that the draft empowers CZMAs at the state-level, which is responsible for the Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs). “The idea is to complete the process of drawing up plans in consultation with coastal dwellers. Land and sea are constantly merging. As a result, this cannot be done through satellite images. One has to visit the area… The issue is that the process of creating CZMPs is flawed…,” she said.
The MoEF has said that the “relaxations/ amendment” proposed in the CRZ notification, 2018, shall come into effect only after respective CZMPs that were to be framed under the previous CRZ notification, have been revised or updated by states/UTs and approved by the ministry.
The National Green Tribunal has noted that it has been seven years since the deadline set by the 2011 notification to submit CZMPs to the MoEF has passed. Several states have held public hearings in this regard. While Maharashtra has requested an extension, the public hearing in Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu was forcibly cancelled last week due to opposition from fisherfolk.
According to Pooja Kumar, the dilutions introduced by the new draft will affect customary land use and traditional land rights. “It does maintain the language of long-term housing plans. What is the point of it if livelihoods and related spaces are not taken care of?”
“Coastal spaces are fluid. Applying models that pertain to inland areas to the coast is problematic… Delhi and its corridors of power lack an understanding of what these places are,” Kohli said.