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Gujarat and Tamil Nadu lead in project clearance in coastal areas

The State Coastal Zone Management Authorities (SCZMA) of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have topped in granting clearances to proposed projects in last two decades.

A recent report by the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and Namati, titled “Coastal Zone Management Authorities (CZMAs) and Costal Environments: Two decades of regulating land use change on India’s coastline” shows that Gujarat topped the list with 93% rate of project clearance, with only one project was rejected out of 76 proposals.

Interestingly, all proposals were to build jetty, port, industry etc. unlike rest of the States, where several proposals were pertaining to repairing or reconstruction.

Tamil Nadu has the second highest rate of project clearance with 86%. It is followed by Andhra Pradesh (85%) and Karnataka (85%), while Odisha featured at the bottom in this list with 70% rate. In case of Karnataka and Goa, where the total number of proposals received is much higher, 1310 and 1297 respectively, majority are of renovation, reconstruction and repairing.

As per the report since the time they were set up, the nine SCZMAs have examined over 4,500 project proposals. On an average, 15 projects (in which, at times, hundreds of small repair, reconstruction or individual housing needs are clubbed under one project head) are considered in a meeting, lasting half a working day.

The study analyses the structure, functioning and performance of CZMAs, by using data from over 350 CZMA meetings between January 1999 and March 2014.

It relies on 39 interviews with sitting and ex-members of the CZMAs and staff, consultants and officers of the MoEFCC in charge of implementation of the CRZ Notification and analyses the functioning of CZMAs on their key tasks - project appraisals, coastal zone mapping, action against violations and conservation of coastal areas.

If one blames the environmental laws and authorities to delay the approval of projects along India’s coastline, the report challenges the apprehensions.

Rate of approval

The rate of approval for the projects in the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) across the nine coastal States is 80%. “However, this does not mean that the remaining 20% are rejected: out of this 20%, a large proportion is of cases that are deferred, dropped, closed or kept pending without a decision,” says the report.

The SCZMAs, which were constituted to take crucial decisions regarding the use of coastal lands and the management of coastal environments, conducted site visits to only 8% of the total number of projects seen.

“It is not mandatory to visit each and every site as per the law, but we have pointed out that there are no clear guidelines at all on handling this issue,” Meenakshi Kapoor, one of the authors of the report told The Hindu . She noted that the authorities cannot just rely on maps and site visits are necessary to avoid on ground violations, which do occur in many cases.

The report further noted the sombre condition on post-clearance monitoring by the SCZMAs as none of the States had uploaded the half-yearly compliance reports received from the project proponents on their respective websites as required under the CRZ notification, 2011. Poor post-clearance monitoring can also be the reason of heavy workload on SCZMAs.

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