The draft of CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) Notification 2018 has been released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC), the final version of which is slated to replace the CRZ Notification of 2011 to govern activities in the 7500 km long coastline of India. This draft proposes a host of changes to the 2011 version, one of the major of said changes being that the “CRZ limits on land along the tidally influenced water bodies has been proposed to be reduced from 100 metres or the width of the creek, whichever is less, to 50 metres or the width of the creek, whichever is less.”
The draft has been classified into 7 categories as compared to the earlier 5 of 2011, namely the CRZ-I A, CRZ-I B, CRZ-II, CRZ-III A, CRZ-III B, CRZ-IVA and CRZ-IV B. The CRZ-IA pertains to the environmentally sensitive areas like the mangroves, sand dunes, coral reefs, biologically active mudflats, salt marshes, national parks, reserve forests, marine parks, wildlife habitats, nesting ground for birds, turtle nesting grounds, and heritage sites, with the exception being made for construction of roads in the CRZ-I areas by way of reclamation, to be permitted only in exceptional cases and subject to approval of Coastal Zone Management Authority and the MoEFCC. The CRZ-II deals with “developed land areas up to or close to the shoreline, within the existing municipal limits or in other existing legally designated urban areas”, while CRZ-III deals with land areas that are relatively undisturbed (eg. rural areas) and do not fall under CRZ-II. The provision for NDZ(No Development Zone) is not applicable “in such areas falling within notified Port limits”. The CRZ-IV pertains to the “water area and the seabed area between the Low Tide Line up to twelve (12) nautical miles on the seaward side” and construction of monuments or memorials etc in such area. The draft prohibits setting up or expansion of industries, manufacture of oil, storage or disposal of hazardous materials, setting up fishing units, land reclamation, discharge or dumping of waste and sewage from industries and human settlements, port and harbour projects in high eroding coastal stretches, sand mining, disposal of plastic in coastal waters, etc. Conservationists and environmentalists are against this new draft as they point out numerous glaring loopholes and state that the rules are “highly skewed in favour of industry” Red flags raised by environmentalists point to loopholes wherein fears arise that ” such extensive changes to coastal protection regulations, India’s coastline will be opened up for major infrastructural development projects and will never be the same again”, as stated by Shweta Wagh, teacher at Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture and environmental studies and researcher at Collective for Spatial Alternatives. “The new draft is bringing significant changes to the CRZ rules and once finalised they will impact the present land use in several coastal areas. The draft CRZ Notification 2018 focuses on the creation of infrastructure, and real estate rather than the protection of coastal ecology and livelihoods,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal research director at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Programme. Those opposing the new draft feel that the amendments were proposed without any public consultation and, with only certain stakeholders being consulted. They are meant to favour private developers, the government, and the industry. They also align with proposed government schemes, ultimately leading to the opening up of several ecologically sensitive areas for infrastructure and urban development.