Costal Regulation Zone: Governance and Conservation

Among the laws and policies, the CRZ Notification is the only law that has been specifically established to control and regulate growth and development of different activities along India’s coasts. Recently, it has also taken into account the near shore marine environment up to 12 nautical miles. Accordingly, it could be argued that the CRZ Notification is an indicator of how far India has moved towards an integrated coastal zone and marine management.

The biggest problem, however, was that the existence of the CRZ Notification was almost completely ignored by the State Government’s authorities responsible for implementation. This particularly came to light through a proceeding before the Indian Supreme Court, Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India. [1] The petitioner was a non-profit organisation working for the cause of environmental protection. The petitioner primarily contended, in this ‘Public Law, Environment and Development Journal Interest Litigation (PIL)’, that the CRZ Notification had not been implemented o enforced for several years after being formulated.

The Notification of Costal Regulation Zones, 2011 provided an extended feature of the costal and marine law.

· It extended the scope of the Notification to include territorial waters within the CRZ. [2]

· The islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep, owing to the unique and ecologically sensitive nature of their environment, and the marine areas surrounding these islands up to their territorial limits were separately covered under the purview of the Island Protection Zone Notification. [3]

· A new category called ‘areas requiring special consideration’ was introduced in the 2011 Notification. Its purpose was to provide a special regime for the most critical coastal environments, which consist of (i) the CRZ areas of Greater Mumbai, Kerala and Goa, and (ii) the extremely vulnerable coastal areas such as Sunderbans. [4]

· The 2011 Notification had put in place concrete measures to combat industrial pollution from land-based activities in order to prevent erosion and other forms of environmental degradation in coastal areas. [5]

Prohibitions under CRZ:

The CRZ Notification, 2011 established a general ban on the establishment of large-scale industries and specifically harmful activities in coastal areas. It prohibited, inter alia, the setting up or expansion of new or existing industries, waste disposal and effluent mechanisms, port and harbour projects, land reclamation, as well as the dressing or alteration of sand dunes, hills, and other natural features including landscape change.

The general ban, however, is qualified by far reaching exceptions attached to every individual type of undertaking or activity. The list of exceptions included particularly those activities of interest to the energy industry, as well as those of the transport and tourism sector.

Paragraph 4 of the CRZ Notification, 2011 laid down those activities that are generally permitted within the CRZ areas. However, it subjected these activities to prior clearance from the concerned state authority. [6]

Activities that were permitted and required clearance include, for example, projects that required waterfront and foreshore facilities, specific housing, construction or operation schemes, as well as various types of projects listed in the CRZ Notification that also attracted clearance under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.

In addition to the general bans and permissions applicable to the entire CRZ, the CRZ Notification, 2011 added area-specific regimes. Coastal stretches falling within the scope of the CRZ area were being separated into different categories of coastal habitats.

Management of Costal Regulation Zones; Present Day Policies and Analysis

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on January 18, 2019 notified the 2019 Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, replacing the existing CRZ norms of 2011.

Objective of CRZ Regulations 2019

The new CRZ norms, issued under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, aim to promote sustainable development based on scientific principles taking into account the natural hazards such as increasing sea levels due to global warming.

The norms also seek to conserve and protect the environment of coastal stretches and marine areas, besides livelihood security to the fisher communities and other local communities in the coastal area.

Salient Features of CRZ Regulations 2019

Two separate categories for CRZ-III (Rural) areas

CRZ-III A: The A category of CRZ-III areas are densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2161 per square kilometre as per 2011 Census. Such areas have a No Development Zone (NDZ) of 50 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL) as against 200 meters from the High Tide Line stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011.

CRZ-III B: The B category of CRZ-III rural areas have population density of below 2161 per square kilometre as per 2011 Census. Such areas have a No Development Zone of 200 meters from the HTL.

Floor Space Index Norms eased

As per CRZ, 2011 Notification, the Floor Space Index (FSI) or the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) had been frozen. In the CRZ 2019 Notification, the government decided to de-freeze the Floor Space Index and permit FSI for construction projects.

Tourism infrastructure permitted in coastal areas

The new norms permit temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities, etc. in Beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are a

Streamlining of CRZ Clearances

The procedure for CRZ clearances has been streamlined. Now, the only such projects which are located in the CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward) will be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level.

No Development Zone of 20 meters for all Islands

For islands close to the main land coast and for all Backwater Islands in the main land, No Development Zone of 20 meters has been stipulated in wake of space limitations and unique geography of such regions.

Pollution abatement

To address pollution in Coastal areas, the treatment facilities have been made permissible in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards.

Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas (CVCA)

Sundarban region of West Bengal and other ecologically sensitive areas identified as under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 such as Gulf of Khambat and Gulf of Kutchh in Gujarat, Achra-Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Karwar and Coondapur in Karnataka, Vembanad in Kerala, Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, Bhaitarkanika in Odisha and Krishna in Andhra Pradesh are treated as Critical Vulnerable Coastal Areas.

These Critical Vulnerable Coastal Areas will be managed with the involvement of coastal communities including fisher folk.

Conclusion:

While the government has established policies and legislations for conserving marine resources the State Government bodies and respective forest and fisheries departments are facing issues to implement these regulations. Conservation efforts and social-economic factors are often at odds, since local communities rely on marine resources for their daily livelihood and in such scenarios the government along with local NGOs’ must strive for training the local communities for sustainable management of the resources rather than denying them access and rights to the resources.

To maintain social stability and promote distributional justice, local coastal communities should be assigned clearly drafted, specific use and property rights with regard to specific areas. Given that coastal communities often have established experience and practices to manage local ecosystems sustainably, in many cases assigning exclusive rights to local communities can also help to protect coastal ecosystems.

Accordingly, rights and obligations for individuals or the public laid down in the Notification should have a clear and increasingly comprehensive content which is eventually enforceable in the courts (either by the administrations, private entities or third parties in public interest litigation). [7]

  • [1] S.M. Marale and R.K. Mishra, ‘Status of Coastal Habitats and its Management in India’, 1/1 International Journal of Environmental Protection 31, 45 (2011).
  • [2] Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 S.O.1533, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, and Section 3, Sub-section(ii) dated 14th September 2006.
  • [3] Island Protection Zone Notification, 2011 No. S.O. 20(E), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
  • [4] Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India & Others, Supreme Court of India Judgement of 13 February 1996, AIR 1996 SC 1446.
  • [5] ‘Amendment to the CRZ Notification’, released 8th March 2010, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, New Delhi.
  • [6] S. Narayanan, ‘New Rules for Coasts’, Down To Earth,15 February 2011.
  • [7] S.M. Marale and R.K. Mishra, ‘Status of Coastal Habitats and its Management in India’, 1/1 International Journal of Environmental Protection 31, 45 (2011).

 

Abhishek Das 
on 09 October 2019
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