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Four years of contentious coastal regulation ‘reform’ in India: what is the debate?

December 6, 2018


In June 2014, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) constituted the Shailesh Nayak (SN) Committee to review the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2011. While it was reportedly done in response to state governments’ concerns regarding coastal development, it opened up several contentious issues for diverse opinions. This was despite the fact that so far, the environment ministry has not disclosed the overall road map of the proposed reform. See details here, here and here.

Over the years, the contentious issues have received views from various actors- industries, real estate, construction and tourism sectors, fisher groups, coastal citizens, academics and NGOs. Presented Below are those contentious issues of coastal regulation along with a selection of views on those. These views have been collated from the file notings and a list of comments on the draft CRZ Notification 2018 received from the MoEFCC in October 2018 through a Right to Information (RTI) application. Find these documents here and here.

Width of No Development Zone in rural areas

The CRZ Notification, 2011 delineates the first 200 m of the CRZ III (rural) areas as No Development Zone (NDZ). The SN Committee suggested that there should be a differential CRZ that is based on population density. It recommended that CRZ III areas with a population density of 2161 per sq km and higher should have an NDZ of 50 m and areas with a population density of less than 2161 per sq km should have an NDZ of 200 m width.

Views from within the Ministry

Two officers who reviewed the suggestions of the SN Committee in 2015 had different opinions on the matter. One officer accepted the suggestion of having a population density based NDZ, the other felt that a population based distinction was not required as ‘urbanisation is a dynamic process’.

The difference of opinion on this issue continued despite the change in officers in charge of revising the notification. In fact, consensus on qualification of those rural areas (CRZ III) that should have a narrower NDZ didn’t come by till the end of 2017. At that time one officer felt that the recommendation of the SN committee should be retained, however another officer contended that declaration of a panchayat as an urban local body was a better criteria. Under the CRZ Notification 2011, urban areas are not required to maintain an NDZ.

Holding a similar view, a different officer in November 2017 dropped the suggestion of the SN Committee from the draft that was presented before the Prime Minister’s Office. He argued that the state government could reclassify the areas with densities ‘high enough’ as municipalities/urban areas.

Views from the submissions on Draft CRZ 2018

While within the ministry, the basis of permitting a reduced NDZ in certain rural areas was discussed at length, outside the ministry many fisher groups, NGOs, panchayath and industry representatives asked for a uniform NDZ all across- representations from tourism and real estate sectors and some gram panchayats asked for a considerably reduced NDZ and fisher groups, NGOs and citizens’ groups demanded that the originally stipulated 200 m wide NDZ be retained. Below is a selection of suggestions on the subject as received by the ministry.

Hazira Machhimar Samiti, Gujarat; Pavity Jinwar Kodi, Mumbai; Harbadevi Machhimar Sarvodaya Sahkari Society, Mumbai; Machhimar Samaj Sangh Palghar, Maharashtra and Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum, West Bengal objected to the reduction of the NDZ. In fact, Hazira Machhimar Samiti demanded that the NDZ should be more than 200 m.
St Estevam Biodiversity Management Committee, Goa conceded that there shouldn’t be any reduction in the NDZ. Biodiversity Management Committees are constituted by the local bodies at the village and municipality level. They are constituted under the Biodiversity Act 2002 for the conservation and management of biological diversity of an area.
State Vice President of BJP, Daman & Diu and three other representatives of the party from the state opined that Diu should have an NDZ of 20m.
Representative from the Oberoi group advocated for an NDZ of 20 m. President of the Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd. Stated: ‘NDZ is against development.’
Paduvary Grama Panchayath, Karnataka requested that a uniform NDZ of 50 m should apply in CRZ III areas.
Candolim Residents and Consumer Forum sought a reversal to a uniform 200 m NDZ. Goa Foundation, an NGO active in Goa demanded the same.
World Travel & Tourism Council, India Initiative contended that in thinly populated rural areas, an NDZ of 100 m should apply.
Gujarat Chemical Port Terminal Company Limited stated in its submission that the NDZ should not apply in notified industrial estates and investment regions.
School of industrial fisheries, Cochin University of Science & Technology objected to the reduction of NDZ and stated in its submission: ‘NDZ reduction may trigger displacement and migration of traditional communities.’
CRZ along tidal influenced water bodies

The CRZ Notification 2011 in its Clause (ii) mandates that along estuaries, creeks and other tidal influenced water bodies connected to the sea, a CRZ of 100m or width of the water body, whichever is less applies. The notification also states that the distance upto, which the zone applies, is till a point upto which the tidal effects are observed. Tidal effect is established if salinity of 5 parts per thousand is observed in a water body in the driest period of the year. Since the sea and the water bodies connected with the sea share the same habitat and biodiversity, the clause was added as a measure to protect the coastal biodiversity and livelihoods that are dependent on it. Both these issues received divergent opinions within and outside the ministry.

Width of the CRZ along tidal influenced water bodies

Views from within the ministry

While reviewing the SN Committee report, two officers in the MoEFCC suggested in 2015 that a CRZ of 50 m or width of the water body whichever is less would suffice. Different drafts considered by the ministry also had varying proposals on the subject. Those have been summarised in the table below.

Various drafts & reports CRZ Width
Shailesh Nayak Committee Report 2014 100m; 25 m1
Draft Integrated Marine and Coastal Conservation Notification (IMCC), 2015 25m
Draft CRZ Notification 2018 50m
* The SN originally stipulated Committee retained the width in its suggestions but in the draft CRZ Notification that it recommended, width of the NDZ had become 25 m.

Views from the submissions on Draft CRZ 2018

Additional Chief Secretary of Kerala opined that CRZ around tidal influenced water bodies should be 30 m.
Bombay Environmental Action Group and Sabuj Mancha, environmental NGO from Maharashtra and West Bengal respectively asked for a reversal to original 100 m of CRZ around the tidal influenced water bodies.
Machhimar Sehkaari Sanstha Navi Mumbai noted that reduction in CRZ width around water bodies was ‘against the spirit of CRZ Notification.’
Edavanakad Gram Panchayath of Vypin islands in Ernakulam district of Kerala sought a CRZ of 30 m around tidal influenced water bodies.
Surat Builders’ Association and Real Estate developers’ Association suggested that CRZ for tidal influenced water bodies should be 30 m where there is no bund or retaining wall and 15 m where there is a bund.
City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra, Navi Mumbai suggested that bunds made by villagers should not be considered as tidal influenced water bodies and no CRZ should apply there.
Most submissions as mentioned in the table compiled by the MoEFCC do not provide reasons for their suggestions. Sometimes, reductions have been sought for tourism development; an individual mentioned that reduction in CRZ along the creeks will release large stretches of land for affordable housing. Those who have criticised the reduction have opined that it would put additional strain on the coast and harm coastal ecology and traditional livelihoods.

Length of the CRZ along tidal influenced water bodies

Views from within the Ministry

The draft IMCC Notification that was being considered by the ministry in the year 2015 had a clause that limited the length of the CRZ along tidal influenced water bodies up to a length of 1 km from the mouth of water body into the sea. However, in the subsequent drafts, the ministry reverted to the original salinity criteria to determine the length of the water body up to, which the CRZ would apply. Read about the different drafts in the first blog post of the series.

Views from the submissions on Draft CRZ 2018

Additional Chief Secretary of Kerala suggested that the CRZ along a water body should be limited to 1 km in urban areas and 3 kms in rural areas.
Varapuzha Gram Panchayath of Ernakulam, Kerala opined that CRZ limit should not exceed beyond 8 km form the mouth of the estuary. Advocate Ebenser C L from Cochin shared a similar view with the MoEFCC in his submission.
FSI and FAR for buildings in CRZ II areas

The CRZ Notification 2011, freezes the Floor Space Index (FSI) and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for buildings in the CRZ II (urban) areas to the level of 1991. This was done to ensure that there was ample open space around the buildings in coastal areas. This would reduce the pressure on the coast and their vulnerability to natural disasters. In contrast to the CRZ Notification, 2011, SN Committee recommended in the report that FSI and FAR should not be fixed at the level of 1991 for buildings in CRZ II. But in the draft notification that it suggested FSI/FAR were not mentioned explicitly.

Views from within the Ministry

In 2015, one officer accepted the suggestion of the committee to defreeze FSI and FAR for buildings in CRZ II. But another officer suggested that along with this change a coastline conservation program should be implemented. He added that project proponents should fund this ‘as the coastline will witness the growth of infrastructure’. He also suggested that a setback of 5-10 m from the HTL should be protected. In the draft CRZ Notification 2018, FSI and FAR for buildings in urban areas is no more fixed at the 1991 level but it is as applicable on the date of the notification. Also, the additional requirement of coastline conservation programme is not there.

Views from the submissions on Draft CRZ 2018

Kalpataru Limited, a real estate company and Builders Association of Mumbai sought that FSI and FAR are changed from time to time according to the changes in the local town and country planning regulations. 8-10 coastal citizens demanded the same.
Essel Infraprojects and Mumbai Association of Realtors suggested that the permitted FSI for buildings in urban coastal areas be increased.
Cavelossim Villagers’ Forum, Goa conceded on the other hand that FSI/FAR restrictions should not be relaxed. Machhimar Sahkari Sanstha Maryadit, Navi Mumbai and Prakriti NGO, Puri, Odisha suggested the same.
Hotel Association of Puri shared in its submission that regulations with respect to FSI/FAR were not clear.
Coasts are one of the most vied landscapes due to their trade, industry and tourism potential, livelihood dependence, scenic beauty and conservation value. However, these interests often come with contradictory visions for the coasts and different set of expectations from the coastal legislation. In the last four years these differences have become starker as only certain actors have been taken on board while charting the road map for the coasts. The CRZ revamp series so far has shared the details of discussion within and outside of the ministry on CRZ regulation and brought home the point that coastal regulation is an issue of public interest. It has also emphasised on the significance of granting opportunities for a genuine public review of the coastal law in reconciling the differences. This last blog post of the series, by drawing attention to the crucial and unresolved aspects of the coastal regulation, echoes once again the need for a wider dialogue on the law.