coastal conflict

Drafted in secrecy, India’s new coastal rules enable more tourism, houses closer to shore

It took multiple RTI applications to get a preview of the draft notification, but the full details are yet to be revealed.

On March 22, leading national dailies reported that the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 was being replaced with a new framework called the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2017. It was clear that a new law was on the anvil, but its contents were not publicly available. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change had only shared copies of “stakeholder” meetings on the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone, in response to a right-to-information application.

A copy of the proposed 2017 notification was accessed by Meenakshi Kapoor of the CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program following a file inspection on Tuesday. Yet again, the ministry failed to disclose suo moto the proposal to amend the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification despite directions from the Central Information Commission in 2008 and 2016 to do so and the government’s commitment to transparency.

The draft notification proposes significant changes to the manner in which coastal zones are to be managed and regulated for a variety of activities. The proposed changes are not only a change in nomenclature with the word “marine” appended to the law, but have far-reaching social and ecological implications:

  1. Temporary tourism facilities will be allowed in Ecologically Sensitive Areas (Marine Coastal Regulation Zone I). The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 does not allow temporary tourism facilities in Coastal Regulation Zone I areas.
  2. Development in urban areas (Marine Coastal Regulation Zone II) to be regulated as per prevailing local laws. The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 allows development in Coastal Regulation Zone II areas as per the town and country planning norms of 1991. This was done to acknowledge the need for the local town and country planning norms to be aligned with the Coastal Regulation Zone notification, which was issued for the first time in 1991.
  3. Housing and basic infrastructure for local inhabitants will be allowed 50 meters from the High Tide Line in rural areas (Marine Coastal Regulation Zone III). The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 permitted houses for coastal communities after the first 100 meters of Coastal Regulation Zone III areas.
  4. State and Union territory governments are to prepare tourism plans for their respective Marine Coastal Regulation Zone areas. No such tourism plans are mentioned in the 2011 notification (see detailed comparison between the current and proposed notifications here).
  5. Area under Marine Coastal Regulation Zone will depend only on tidal demarcations (High Tide Line and Low Tide Line). The 2011 notification links the Coastal Regulation Zone area with Hazard Line in addition to High Tide Line-Low Tide Line demarcations (see details here).

Under wraps

While the notification proposes changes to coastal regulation, the details of the new clauses lie in the 10 annexures that are to go with it. The proposed Marine Coastal Regulation Zone Notification that was accessed mentions these annexures, but they were not made available at the time of the file inspection.

Since 2014, the entire process of reviewing and revising the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 has been a closed-door exercise. Instead of the ministry inviting suggestions and feedback from coastal communities, researchers, urban planners and legal experts on the implementation of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification and proposals for reform, there has been reluctance to share the details of this review.

For over a year and a half, despite numerous applications under the Right to Information Act, the report of the committee that reviewed the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 was not made public (the ministry disclosed the report only after an order from the Chief Information Commission). Four of the nine amendments made to the notification in the last three years were issued without seeking public comments on those (see details here).

The file inspection revealed that even ministries that were asked to provide comments on the draft notification on March 20 were not provided full information related to the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone, in particular the annexures. In April, the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the Ministry of Tourism requested the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to share copies of these annexures before they furnished their comments on the draft.

Researchers, activists, fishing unions and coastal communities have been persistent in their efforts to have an informed and participatory review of the primary law governing India’s coastline, the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011. Fishing groups across the country have written to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change based on what was revealed in the news reports, as there has been no attempt by the government to involve them. Such a participatory review is critical because changes in coastal regulation will have a direct bearing on over 3,200 marine fishing villages and several million residents living across India’s coastline.

This article first appeared on the website of the Centre for Policy Research.

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