VISAKHAPATNAM: The demand for reclassification of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) has come to the focus with the investors upping the ante to create conducive climate to develop 30-km-long stretch of beach road from Visakhapatnam to 17 century Dutch township of Bheemunipatnam.

The plans to put Visakhapatnam in world tourism map has remained an empty rhetoric for several years with CRZ norms putting spokes in the efforts to attract investments. Development of Buddhist circuit has remained on paper even as the Rs.45-crore beach corridor project may take off after the elections.

“There are many lined up with offers of investment in water sports, hotels, wellness, cinema studios and other sector. Only when we get relaxation in the guidelines, we can create the required infrastructure to give a fillip to tourist arrivals,” said city-based hotelier and builder Seshagiri Mantri.

The demand for relaxation, which has been opposed strongly by the green lobby, was brought to the notice of Joint Secretary (Tourism) Anand Kumar at a recent CII session.

Ministry of Environment & Forests issued the CRZ notification in 1991, in accordance with the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. CRZ is applicable to areas abutting the coast up to 500 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL).

“We have to learn from the world’s top five cities Dubai, Singapore, San Francisco, Miami and New York, which have seacoast. Let’s follow the benchmarks set by them without any damage to the environment,” Vizag Development Council vice-president O. Naresh Kumar.

CRZ prohibits any construction activity including industries within the sandy portion of the sea coast and the areas adjacent to streams and the backwaters of the sea which are subject to tidal action. CRZ prohibits bore wells which depend on mechanical pumping of water, as such activity will lead to incursion of salinity in ground water aquifers.

“There have been serious violations of CRZ along the Vizag coast. As a result, several groundwater sources in the city (e.g. Lawson's Bay area) have turned saline. Both industrial pollution and untreated sewage water and wastes have contaminated the marine resources and entered the food chain that sustains life in the city,” said former Union Energy Secretary E.A.S. Sarma.

He said of late several industrialists, supported by political leaders, had mounted a campaign to reclassify CRZ III into II to facilitate development.

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