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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Is the transition from CRZ to CZM properly understood?

The Indian coastal community has historically practised the common property system, as far as ownership of the coast is concerned. Coasts were primarily the workspace of Indian fisher folk, free and exclusive. Ownership rights were never an issue, that is, until the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of 1991[1], which for the first time ever, divided coasts into four zones and drew regulations to determine permissive and prohibitive activities, both for industry and community use, within each zone.

"Coastal zone" is a term to include those coastal waters, wetland and shore land that is strongly influenced by marine water. This is the area of interaction between land and sea. The coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers and backwaters, which are influenced by the tidal action (in the land ward side) up to 500 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL) and the land between the Low Tide Line and the HTL, had been declared Coastal Regulation Zone[2]. The CRZ covers the coastal stretches of Indias mainland and the many islands including Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

Mandate of CRZ

The mandate of CRZ, in essence, lies in protecting the natural habitat, ensuring species proliferation, and thus supporting sustainable livelihoods of traditional coastal communities. Restrictions on the setting up or extension of industries, operations or processes in the coastal regulation zone are prescribed. However, the construction/reconstruction of dwelling units between 20 and 500 metres of the High Tide Line is permitted so long as it is within the ambit of traditional rights and customary uses such as existing fishing villages and gothans[3]. In effect, the CRZ and the interests of fishermen dovetail perfectly since they are of mutual benefit.

To the fisher folk, these regulations have brought a set of exclusive settlement rights in the CRZ III zone. The CRZ III zone stands for areas that are relatively undisturbed and include coastal zone in the rural areas (developed and undeveloped).3 Thanks to the strict parameters for zoning, even after deliberate manipulations to limit the land area under CRZ III an average of around 60% of the coasts come under this zone. To site a few examples: in Kerala, the total area under CRZ is 498.579 square kilometres. Of this, CRZ III is 341.825 square kilometres. In Karnataka it is 274.04, 172.71 square kilometres and in Andhra Pradesh it is 3674.73, 2526.6 square kilometres respectively.[4]

With settlement rights, follow facilities such as availability of fresh drinking water, natural drainage of floodwater, passage of access to sea by fishermen and avoidance of the problem of Salinisation of drinking water wells. Commercial proficiency is another aspect.

Mangroves have been classified as a Coastal Regulation Zone-I (CRZ), which means that construction cannot take place without the express permission of the CRZ Authority. This makes all construction activity in mangrove areas a violation of CRZ rules. The Pichavaram mangrove forest is a living answer to the question why CRZ should be implemented. The thick forest slowed down the tidal waves, protecting around 1,700 people living in fishing hamlets located 100 to 1,000 metres from it. Similar observations of the benefits of vegetation were made in Muthupet, in the Andamans, in Penang (Malaysia) and in Sri Lanka. By contrast, in Kerala, several places in Alappuzha and Kollam districts were devastated partly because the shore was stripped by illegal sand mining, leaving no natural barrier. Moreover, three-fourths of fish species spend some part of their life cycle in mangroves. For each acre of cut mangrove there is a loss of approximately 275 kg of marine harvest.[5]

CRZ regulations play a very important role both in peoples struggles and legal proceedings against the list of prohibited industries under the notification. The notification provides that State Governments and Union Territory Administrations shall ensure adherence to these regulations and violations, if any, shall be subject to the provisions of the Environment (Protection.) Act, 1986. The communities have the legal right to approach a court of law against any violations of CRZ or intrusions into their living and occupational space by these industries.

Tourism and other industries, that require a waterfront and foreshore facilities, can use the CRZIII zone provided they get the clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). In this era of judicial activism, the industry knows that any written law can be very crucial. The increasing awareness of environment and ecology, and the efforts made by peoples groups to educate people on coastal zone regulations are also a potential threat. They are aware that any violation in this region would bring the community, NG0s and peoples groups to the war front. A number of violators of the regulation were taken to court and many of them were found to be guilty and their constructions face demolition orders. Notable among these are multinational power giants - Enron in Mumbai, Maharashtra and Cogentrix in Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka.

Impediments to implementation

The greatest impediment to the CRZ is that it is viewed as anti-development. What the planners of the notification had overlooked, quite unwittingly is the existence of other interest groups in the coast, namely tourism and large industries. Developers argue that the CRZ hampers progress. They promote the dream of expressways, trans-harbour bridges, housing and slum redevelopment schemes. All the nine coastal States of the country have attempted to dilute the CRZ thus. Most State Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) have classified the CRZ areas incorrectly. Maharashtra, for instance, in its CZMP devised in 1995, failed to designate mangrove areas as CRZ-I. It also wrongly classified no-development areas with a view to developing them in future. Even after the Coastal Task Force pointed out irregularities in the Maharashtra Governments CZMP, the state government rejected its suggestions and submitted a new plan that clearly violated the regulations laid down by the MoEF. The plan failed to designate huge tracts of mangroves in Mumbai and New Mumbai, limiting them to only 100 hectares, in an attempt to regularise ongoing, illegal construction in the Bandra-Kurla commercial complex, co-operative housing complexes in Versova and a road in New Mumbai, all of which lie in CRZ-I designated areas.

In none of the states has the HTL demarcation exercise been done at the ground level. The MoEF directed the Tamil Nadu Government to delineate LTL, HTL, 200 meters, 500 meters lines and other relevant lines in respect of creeks, backwaters and rivers affected by tidal action so that distances can be measured, whenever required. The demarcation of the HTL has only taken place on the ground level for the stretch between Chennai city and Mahabalipuram. For the remaining 920 odd kilometers of coastline in the State, the HTL and other lines remain unmarked at the ground level. The MoEF has directed reclassification in certain areas of Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Nadu State Government is in the process of doing so.

Since 1991, there have been 19 amendments and around 3 corrigenda (up to 24th July 2003) to the provisions of the Notification. The series of amendments to the notification have made way for several industrial and large-scale commercial activities on the coast, which do not really require the waterfront or foreshore, as directed in the original notification. Each of these amendments dilutes and introduces newer clauses that complicate and render many of the protective clauses meaningless,. But none of the amendments have sought to clarify some of the other ambiguities and uncertainties such as the definition of local inhabitants, traditional rights and customary uses.[6]

Proposed CZM The Antithesis of CRZ

The MS Swaminathan Committee report recommendations to the government released in February 2005, to manage rather than regulate coastal areas, represent further erosion of both fishing communities rights and the integrity of the coastal ecosystem. These recommendations, which are likely to form the basis for new coastal legislation:

a. Propose to dismantle the regulatory aspects of the existing CRZ Notification of 1991

b. Ignore the livelihood rights of fishing communities

c. Propose to include and make available for commercial exploitation territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles.

Despite its mandate to include stakeholder participation through due consultation, the MS Swaminathan Committee failed to either inform or consult fish workers organizations, whose interests were therefore totally ignored.

The zonation proposed by the MS Swaminathan Committee for the consideration of the MoEF is highly problematic and likely to pave the way for the speedy destruction of coastal communities and ecosystems.

The recommendation to expand the core zone to include territorial waters from the shore up to a distance of 12 nautical miles has disastrous implications for the livelihoods of fishing communities. In view of the fact that the MS Swaminathan Committee chose to ignore the traditional rights of fishing communities to sea and marine resources, this recommendation would in effect penalize traditional access rights and lead to the large-scale displacement of fisher people.

The proposal with respect to ecologically sensitive areas adjacent to the core zone is equally shocking. Several commercial activities, such as SEZ development, industrial estates, tourism, mineral mining, man-made coastal protection structures and defence installations have been proposed as permissible activities in ecologically sensitive areas accessed by fisher people under the new coastal management framework. This recommendation is nothing but a green signal for unbridled commercial activities along the coast.

Desired Course of Action

Coasts are the new frontier for economic expansion, particularly in the post-liberalization period. If the spatial analysis, of the growth of our gross national product could be undertaken, it would indicate that it is higher for the coastal tract. Considering that many of our major and fast expanding cities are along the coast, such a conclusion will not be a miss. The most unfortunate of this new- frontier expansion is that this new developers are fortified with greater political and economic power and they seldom take the original inhabitants into confidence. To add to the woes of the Environment Department, the protective natural barriers are hunted down in the name of development. Sustainable development of the coastal tract and greater entitlements and capabilities for the poor can be ensured only with a new structure of rights to the natural assets in the coastal area eco-system, which covers both land and sea. Development along coastal stretches is severely restricted under a regime comprising the CRZ 1991. The CRZ regulations severely restrict development on about 3000 sq km of the coastal India.

The need of the hour thus is:

a) The strict implementation of the original CRZ 1991 notification with immediate effect.

b) That all coastal norm violations under the CRZ 1991 notification be booked and penalized immediately.

c) That no step be undertaken to change coastal policy and norms without a process of due consultation with all stakeholders, including and in particular, fish workers and their democratic organizations.

d) That immediate steps be taken to recognize and uphold the traditional and customary rights of fisher people to housing, coastal lands as well as sea and marine resources.

The Apex court has observed that the Central Government shall, while issuing Notifications, balance various interests including economic, ecological, social and cultural. Further, while economic development should not be allowed to take place at the cost of ecology or by causing widespread environment destruction and violation; at the same time, the necessity to preserve ecology and environment should not hamper economic and other development. It is laid down that both development and environment must go hand in hand[7].

As coastal resources tend to support high-value economic activities, e.g. shrimp farming, as well as the livelihoods of many poor people, notably small-scale fishing or farming, managing and allocating coastal resources while minimizing interferences involve addressing simultaneously growth and equity issues. Efficient and socially acceptable distribution is a key to the sustainable development, in both economic and environmental terms, of coastal areas. Conflicts are an inevitable outcome of a distribution perceived as unfair by specific groups of resource users.


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