The government plans to bring the sea along the Indian coasts under the ambit of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) guidelines and strengthen enforcement provisions.

Some leniency will be given for fishing facilities and to the coastal communities in Mumbai, Kerala, certain biosphere reserves, the Sunderbans and Goa.

These are some of the new initiatives in the government's proposal to amend the CRZ Notification, 1991, and issue a new notification in 2010.

A pre-draft paper has been finalised and the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests has invited comments by May 31. These amendments come after the draft Coastal Management Zone, 2008, was allowed to lapse following strong objections by fishing and other coastal communities.

While the 1991 notification only included land regions, the new amendments say that aquatic regions — that is, the sea up to 12 nautical miles, and the water area of tidal influenced water bodies — will also come under its jurisdiction.

These aquatic regions will be classified separately as CRZ-IV. While the first three categories — namely, ecologically sensitive areas, built-up municipal areas and rural areas — remain the same, a fifth category of “areas requiring special consideration” has been newly created.

These special cases include Greater and Navi Mumbai, where 136 slums exist within 500 metres of the coast and the heavily-populated islands in Kerala's backwaters. These areas would be given special dispensations. Special attention will be given to the Sunderbans, which will get an integrated management plan designed to protect its mangroves and provide infrastructure facilities for its local communities.

Following representations from fishing communities during the public consultations which preceded this draft, it has been decided to allow the construction of facilities such as fish drying yards, auction halls, net mending yards, traditional boat building yards, ice crushing units and fish curing facilities in the No-Development Zone of rural CRZ areas.

Coastal stretches will be classified on the basis of their vulnerability to erosion, while hazard-mapping mechanisms are being revised to take into account sea-level rise and shoreline changes and provide safeguards for local communities.

State governments will be required to produce action plans for pollution control within six months. Funds will be provided for implementation which will be monitored by the Central Pollution Control Board.

Clearance procedures have been simplified and deadlines will be laid down. Monitoring and enforcement provisions are also being strengthened, according to the concept note.

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