68% said no to draft CRZ norms but ministry said yes, published it

The draft rules were released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on April 18, 2018.

Mumbai : Of the 1,965 responses to the draft of the new coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification that was published on January 18, 1,338 (68%) were objections, according to the Right to Information (RTI) reply obtained by a Delhi-based think tank, Centre of Policy Research (CPR).

The draft rules were released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on April 18, 2018.The draft was open for public comments till June 17, 2018. Citing the RTI reply, CPR said only 470 submissions (23%) were in favour of the new laws, while a small percentage suggested changes or sought clarifications. “The ministry received 471 submissions, with multiple representations and signatures. If the number of representations is factored in, the number of comments touches 1,965,” read the analysis by researchers from the CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Program.

“If any draft policy gets more than 50% objections, the draft has to be scrapped and prepared again. However, there is still a chance to appeal against it to the ministry or courts, if all documents highlighting specific objections are collated,” said a senior state official.

The new norms are based on the recommendations of Dr Shailesh Nayak-led committee, which includes all coastal states and various other stakeholders.

“The notification has been developed keeping in mind protection of ecologically sensitive areas, safeguarding aquatic system and marine life, plastic waste disposal, and simultaneously allowing ecotourism and development of coastal zones. Every stakeholder was brought on board before developing the document, which was reviewed by the union council of ministers,” said a senior official from MoEFCC from the committee that drafted the notification.

“While existing open spaces and green cover in coastal areas will be protected, the latest provision helps issue clearances for redevelopment activities in areas such as bays and creeks, which was stalled as per the previous notification,” said Anil Diggikar, principal secretary, state environment department.

Citizens from coastal areas, such as fishermen, local institutions and industries submitted made maximum submissions (664), with most of them (362) demanding the notification be scrapped.

Seven submissions were from Sindhudurg and Malvan in Maharashtra, seeking a clarification on critically vulnerable area protection, which was mentioned in CRZ 2011 notification, but not in the draft rules.

Submissions from 10 government agencies from Maharashtra, including the state urban development department, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and mining bodies, sought further reduction of NDZ, and removal of buffer around mangroves on private lands. Six submissions from political parties along the west coast requested the conversion of rural areas (CRZ-III) to urban spaces (CRZ-II) and removal of NDZ.

“Inviting suggestions and objections was tokenism and not a serious attempt to engage with citizens,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.

“With the new notification, the government has assumed that every inch of the coastline can be commercially used, built over or reclaimed, irrespective of ecological fragility or livelihood dependence,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at CPR.

“At a time when climate change and human-induced disasters are a reality, the notification allows exploitation of coastal lands and marine areas up to 12 nautical miles. In cities like Mumbai, this notification was issued to accommodate the demands of real estate sector.”

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