The Cabinet on Friday approved the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2018 on ground that it will “lead to enhanced activities in coastal regions” thereby “promoting economic growth” while “respecting conservation principles of coastal regions”. However, the approval follows multiple representations made by civil society pointing out that the draft notification works towards diluting rules that govern the country’s 7,500-km long coastline.
When the draft rules were made public in April, environmentalists had alleged that the notification will open up fragile intertidal areas to real estate agents and was framed with the intent to favour large-scale industry at the cost of fishing communities.
The CRZ 2018 notification states that in order to address pollution in coastal areas “treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ 1-B area subject to necessary safeguards”. The draft rules specify that CRZ 1-B refers to intertidal areas.
The notification will affect how common areas used by fisherfolk are managed and also attempt to bifurcate coastal zones along rural areas based on population density. When the draft rules were made public in April, environmentalists had alleged that the notification will open up fragile intertidal areas to real estate agents and it was framed with the intent to favour large-scale industry at the cost of fishing communities.
“The proposed CRZ Notification… will lead to enhanced activities in the coastal regions thereby promoting economic growth while also respecting the conservation principles of coastal regions. It will not only result in significant employment generation but also to better life and add value to the economy of India. The new notification is expected to rejuvenate the coastal areas while reducing their vulnerabilities,” the Cabinet note said.
Among salient features specified in the Cabinet note is streamlining of CRZ clearances. “Only such projects/activities, which are located in the CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward) shall be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level with necessary guidance,” the Cabinet note states.
Further, the floor space index will be according to current norms in the CRZ index. In other words, while the 2011 notification had frozen the FSI 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.
The notification approved by the Cabinet, however, does not specify a feature from the draft that makes the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) the final authority to lay down standards for High Tide Line (HTL). “The Centre did not wait for the approval, instead amended the existing notification,” Pooja Kumar from the Chennai-based Coastal Resources Centre told The Indian Express.
Further, while the notification points out that more densely populated rural areas will be afforded greater opportunity for development, Kumar pointed out that data on population density is unavailable under Census 2011.
While the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change notified the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification in 1991, which was subsequently revised in 2011, this particular version of the notification has come under criticism for not taking into consideration representations from stakeholders. “The entire Shailesh Nayak committee process was a close door exercise only with state governments,” Kanchi Kohli, a researcher at the Centre for Policy Research, told The Indian Express. “Also treatment facilities allowed in CRZ 1 to reduce coastal pollution means several ecologically-fragile areas will have sewage treatment plants transferring pollution from land to sea,” she said.