A Regulation like CRZ is a must to protect the coast from anarchical development. All talk of ‘development’ vs. ‘regulation’ or ‘conservation’ is missing the point completely. Development cannot be unfettered and an assessment is necessary before any project meant for development is executed, both with respect to the short term and long term benefits as well losses it will bring. While ‘sustainable development often seen as finding a balance between needs of current generation and future generations, even this is only partially correct. Many a development projects has an adverse impact on our own generation.
The various threats to the coast are not just problems for the fishing community. These are problems for the fishing community. These are problems for all of us living in the interior. If we lose the protection given by the coast from the fury of the sea, it will affect even the large population living within the broader definitions the coast that may extend up to 50 kms from the sea. Salination of ground water is affecting water quality and seriously affecting agriculture in coastal areas. Coastal erosion is leading to loss of valuable land and causing enormous economic losses to the nation by the loss as well as the costly protection measures that are often futile. So, coastal destruction is a major national challenge and not just the problem of fisherman. They are just the first to see and experience it.
CRZ has been diluted to such an extent that it doesn’t provide adequate protection. If implemented, it can only protect up to a point but that is not good enough. But it still puts certain limits to development. The fundamental principal of CRZ is that an activity should come up in the first 500 m of the coast if it cannot be done elsewhere. Even then, certain restriction still decide what and how things are to be done. Restriction is bad. In fact, it is essential for protection. By doing so, we protect ourselves, not some poor fisherman.
Overall, NEFF was trying to achieve the following in the negotiations:
To roll back many of the dilutions that had crept into the original CRZ notification of 1991 through a series of 25 amendments, most of which violated the original spirit of the notification to protect the coast.
To scuttle new plans of the building big projects like ‘greenfield airports’ which violated the original principal that only activities that require a seafront can be considered in the CRZ areas; toward of new dilutions planned for specific areas/states that would open a pandora`s box and lead to further dilution of CRZ regulations.
To further strengthen the protection to the coast, incorporating the experiences in over the previous two decades. Cumulative impact assessments, halting port development in erosion prone areas, regulating sea walls and other so-called coastal protections measures, etc, were parts of this agenda.
To improve the enforcement and punitive aspects of the notifications and ensures that the violators of the past did not get away because a new notifications has come.
To ensure the fishing community`s interest on the coast is protected and that housing and development needs of the community are taken care off, something the original 1991 notification did not address adequately.
We won some, lost some. On paper, the MoEF incorporated many of our suggestions. However , a more critical look would show that our ‘success’ was less brilliant. We were unable to make much gain on the roll back of the ‘bad amendments’ of the 1991 notifications. Of the new dilutions proposed, we were able to block only a few of them or put some additional safeguards. However , we were much more successful in getting provisions on enforcement and punishment of the past violations.
Our biggest success was in getting many specific provisions for protections of fishing community interests.
This included: housing into 100 to 200 metre zone of CRZ-III. Maping of all coastal fishing settlements and the space used by them and affording protection to these in the new Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plans (ICZMPs.)
-Representation of fishing community organizations in all coastal institutions (National and State Coastal Zone Management Authorities (NCZMA and SCZMAs) and District level Committees (DLCs).
We were conscious that making provisions to meet the development needs of fishermen could also lead to further coastal degradation. Hence we sought and got a provisions for the State Governments to take responsibility for preparing long term plans for every fishing village. These may have to keep in view that the population would expand over the years but fisherman settlements should expand only on the landward of the CRZ.
Though one should not pre-judge a notification till we see the actual draft, the proposal for a new notification is not good news. All trends indicate that it is clearly meant to make things easier for projects to be established in the coastal areas. The level of protection to the coast is irksome to investors and those who believe in untrammeled development, if a new notification is issued pandering to this constituency, it will be a major set-back to all the efforts of the last three decades in protecting the coast.
I do not wish for a new notification, but for the better implementation of the current notification with constant dialogue with all those concerned for the coast including fishing community organizations
Copyright © 2018 Vinaykumar Khatu. All rights reserved.