The National Fisherfolk Forum (NFF) has called for multi-level consultation with coastal fisher communities, other coastal communities and NGO groups who have expertise and concern over coastal environment across India to give final shape to the new proposed Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification.
M. Ilango, NFF chairperson, in a letter to Anil Madhav Dave, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said members of the NFF and all the traditional coastal fisher communities of India were “perplexed and shocked” by the proposal to finalise the notification.
Providing a backgrounder, Mr. Ilango pointed out that the CRZ Notification which was introduced in 1991, was to be amended without people’s consultation based on the recommendation of the report of the committee under the chairmanship of M. S. Swaminathan, constituted in August 2004.
When the report of the Swaminathan committee was made public in 2005, the fisher communities all over the coastal states of India marked their protest by holding dharnas between 2007 and 2009 and as a result of it, the Union government held one consultation for the whole of India in Mumbai. Following widespread protests by fisherfolk communities which demanded a state-level consultation in all the coastal states, the then Union government arranged for consultation through Centre for Environment Education, an NGO that has branches in many states.
The CEE conducted a series of consultations in each state and uploaded the salient points raised by the participants in each of the consultation. The final report became impetus for the consultation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in four places and the report showed that the concerns raised by the fisher communities had been recognised by the eminent parliamentarians.
After the parliament election in 2009, Jayaram Ramesh, the then Minister for Environment invited a team of NFF members and other eminent citizens for inputs to finalise the draft — a process that culminated in the CRZ Notification 2011.
In contrast, the consultation route seems to have been bypassed in the case of the new notification.
The NFF said that should the ministry go ahead with a new notification without any consultation of the concerned communities, “it would lead to mass protest and action of non cooperation”.
The NFF urged the Ministry to set aside the proposal and set in motion a process of public consultation with the communities concerned so that the communities could exist with peace and be part of the development plans for the marine and coastal zone of the country, for the welfare of the country.
The NFF advocated multi-level consultations in all the coastal districts of India followed by discussions at the state and at national level to finalise the new notification.