Say it does not protect their right to habitat

The Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) has written to Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh stating that the fishing community in the State totally rejected the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2010. The letter was sent to the Union Minister on November 5.

T. Peter, KSMTF State president, said the notification was rejected primarily on grounds that it did not protect “the inalienable rights of the fishing communities to their habitats and did not offer adequate protection to the coastal eco-system.” He said while the fishing communities had sought their rights to the coast, the notification gave only some concessions. They had not sought concessions, but their right to have settlements on the coast.

The letter said up to 50 metres from the high tide level (HTL) of the CRZ area should be kept free of non-fishery activities. Houses of fishermen within that zone can be rehabilitated within the 50-metre to 500-metre zone. All existing houses of the fishing community within that zone should be regularised.

The letter alleged that the notification violated the fundamental principles of coastal protection. There was no logic in permitting activities such as large housing projects, greenfield airports and power plants on the narrow 500-metre strip from the HTL in the CRZ area. In fact, the notification would only serve to displace the fishing communities from the CRZ areas. Activities that require waterfront and foreshore facilities can destroy the coast over time through cumulative impacts, Mr. Peter said in the letter.

He said the special dispensation for Kerala in the notification was essentially to reduce the CRZ from 100 metres to 50 metres for the backwater islands. While this provision outwardly appeared to be one that facilitated the construction of houses for the local communities, it could also facilitate other construction activities for commercial purposes and in the process throw out the fishing communities. Therefore, the dispensation should be limited only to the local fishing communities.

The letter stated that the fishing community was not in favour of the “integrated management plans” to govern critically vulnerable coastal areas. The KMSTF called for a draft Bill on the CRZ that protected the traditional rights and interests of the fishing community and also the coastal environment.