Vembanad Lake now comes under Critical Vulnerable Coastal Area
: The inclusion of Vembanad Lake in Critical Vulnerable Coastal Areas in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification 2011 may impede development activities in a few districts of Kerala, it is feared.
The Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority had expressed its reservations regarding the inclusion of the lake on the list as it implied “very rigid controls/ regulations.” It had urged the State government to take up the case of the lake with the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests as the inclusion “will impede the development of Cochin [Kochi] and other adjoining areas.”
With the inclusion on the list, a wide range of activities in the lake and its adjoining areas will be controlled by two Central legislations brought in by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests — the CRZ notification 2011 and the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010.
The Wetlands Rules were made applicable to the lake as the Vembanad-Kol Wetland was a Ramsar wetland of international importance under the Ramsar convention. The rules also gave the lake protected wetland status whereby the clearance from the Central Ministry was mandatory for initiating development activities there.
The reduction of the No Development Zone (NDZ) to 100 metres on the seafront in CRZ 3 has been welcomed by the Kerala authorities. This has been one of the major demands of the fisher folk and the State. Earlier, the NDZ was 200 metres.
The notification has permitted the construction/ reconstruction of dwelling units of traditional coastal communities, including fisher folk, between 100 and 200 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) along the seafront.
It has included all the islands in the backwaters of Kerala in its ambit. It has also fixed 50 metres width towards the landward side from the HTL as the CRZ area for the islands within the backwaters.
Kerala was given special consideration along with Goa and Greater Mumbai as “areas requiring special consideration for the purpose of protecting the critical coastal environment and difficulties faced by local communities.”
The notification has permitted the repair and reconstruction of existing dwelling units of local communities within 50 metres from the HTL. However, no new constructions would be permitted.
Beyond the 50-metre limit on the landward side of backwater islands, dwelling units of local communities can be constructed with the prior permission of the respective grama panchayat.
Several foreshore facilities such as fishing jetty, fish-drying yards, net-mending yard, fish processing by traditional methods, can be taken up within 50 metres from the HTL of these islands.
Construction of hotels and beach resorts will not be allowed in ecologically sensitive areas such as marine parks, mangroves, coral reefs, breeding and spawning grounds of fish, wildlife habitats and such other areas notified by the Centre or the State government or Union Territories.
For beach resorts and hotels in CRZ 2 and 3, according to the notification, the “project proponent shall not undertake any construction within 200 metres in the landward side of HTL and within the area between Low Tide Line and High Tide Line.