Coastal zone report relaxes curbs on constructions

A high-power committee has recommended changes to laws governing infrastructure development along India’s coast, with the most significant being giving greater powers and responsibilities to coastal States to regulate development, maintain and conserve ecologically fragile zones and ensure that environment be protected without neglecting “basic requirements of growing population.”

Also the committee has in several places recommended that local town planning regulations be preferred over the existing Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) restrictions.

Former Secretary of the Earth Sciences Ministry Shailesh Nayak chaired a six-member committee in 2014 that prepared the ‘Report of the Committee to Review the Issues relating to the Coastal Regulation Zone, 2011’ and submitted it to the Environment Ministry in January 2015. Researcher and environmentalist Kanchi Kohli from the Centre for Policy Research filed a Right to Information (RTI) application in February 2015 after being denied access to the report. The Ministry refused to share it on the grounds that the government had not approved the report’s recommendations.

Last month, the Central Information Commission ordered that the Environment Ministry share the report with Mr. Kohli. The report can be viewed on the CPR website.

According to a statement by the CPR analysing the report, the new Act proposes the devolution of powers to State and Union Territory governments along with local authorities for CRZ II (built up cities and towns), CRZ III (rural areas) and CRZ IV (12 nautical miles into the sea) areas.

These are for activities not covered under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006. The various Coastal Regulation Zone grades represent the ecological sensitivity of a region in decreasing order with I being the most sensitive.

The report, which has yet to be accepted by the government, recommends that buildings can be constructed behind existing structures and roads in CRZ II areas as per existing town and country-planning norms.

CRZ III areas are divided as ‘Densely Populated Rural Areas’ and ‘Rural Areas’ with lesser regulation for the former through the reduction of the ‘no-development zone’ to 50 metres. The document promotes housing infrastructure and slum redevelopment activities in CRZ II and tourism in CRZ III areas based on town and country planning norms and other State regulations. It also recommends the reclamation of the sea bed in CRZ IV area for “ports and harbour, fisheries-related activities and other infrastructure required in the larger public interest such as bridges, sea-links on stilts, roads, important national installations related to coastal security, tourism.”

The report was made after consultation with Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala and also involved representatives from relevant Union Territories. Since January 2015 when the report was submitted, the Ministry has made several amendments to the notification and five of these are related to allowing more constructions in environmentally sensitive coastal zones and laying of new roads in CRZ areas.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 2:23:25 AM |

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