KOCHI: After the currency ban and the restriction on cattle trade, the Union government is accused of preparing the ground for a complete revamp of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules without any stakeholder dialogue. The draft of the changes to the 1991 and 2011 notifications on coastal regulation and protection published in the gazette in March has given 60 days for responding to the proposed changes.
The gazette notification, without any number or date, has proposed changes that would have far-reaching consequences for the rights of people living in the coastal region and the gains made so far in terms of conservation efforts in the coastal regulation management, say activists.
The state government and other agencies have not received any official communication about the draft notification, they added. A major advantage in the draft is the proposal for permitting inhabitants of the coastal area to construct residential units 50 metres landward from the high tide line. The demand was pending from the fisherfolk for long. The seven-page draft, which has changed name of the CRZ into Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ), has diluted stakes of the rights of the coastal communities as the primary stakeholders in the area.
MCRZ amendment to give power to states:
The draft Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) rules has proposed that the state government can open up any area for development activities by declaring the same into MCRZ-III category by preparing a marine coastal regulation management plan after getting the approval from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. “The proposed amendment may result in regularising the large-scale encroachments at the backwaters and beaches across the state,” said Mr Charles George, president of Kerala Matsyathozhilali Aikyavedi.
The amendment is against the spirit of the position taken by Kerala government and several other activist groups, he said. The state government has made it clear that the concession and exemptions given to fisherfolk for construction of dwelling units should not be extended to tourism projects in the coastal and backwater areas. “This is very dangerous and defeats the very purpose of the CRZ notification,” said a former official of Coastal Regulation Zone Management Authority in the state.
Critics have also pointed out that the lack of clarity in defining islands in the draft is likely to create confusion about the permission for construction activities. Another major issue cited by the critics is that many details of the proposals in the notification have been mentioned as given in separate annexures. The annexures are not found in the notification, said Mr Ebenezer Chullikkad, an activist of Greater Cochin Development Watch. The state Assembly should discuss the matter on a priority basis and reach a consensus on the development priorities of the state and inform the Union government accordingly, he said.
“Since the 60-day period mentioned in the notification is already over, the Union government can formulate the new policy on the plea that nobody has responded and thereby facilitate the takeover of beaches and backwaters by the vested interests,” he said....