Current Affairs

Draft CRZ Notification, Joke on Goans: NFF

The National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) has rejected the Draft Notification of Coastal Regulation Zone 2010 and termed the so called special concessions offered to certain geographical locations including Goa to be nothing but a joke on the people.

Following its executive committee meeting at Chennai recently, NFF Chairperson Matanhy Saldanha who hails from Goa, said Goa has not been offered any special concession under the new Notification.

“The permission to construct jetties and ice plants in CRZ which is offered as a special concession to Goa is already available to the fishing community all over the country and therefore it is nothing special,” he said while speaking to Goa Chronicle.

Further, Matanhy Saldanha regretted that the Notification while acknowledging the uniqueness of the khazan lands in Goa has only paid lip service to protecting this unique geographical feature of the country.

“The Notification could have classified the khazan lands in Goa as CRZ-I where nothing can be done as these lands are affected by the tides and could have been termed as areas within inter-tidal zone and therefore protected,” he said.

The so called concession to Kerala is also an eyewash he alleged while stating that most of the backwater islands are purchased by promoters of star hotels and the notification by setting up a 50 metre buffer zone, is actually helping the hoteliers to develop their properties, he said.

“The Draft Notification does not make any mention of the people living in the backwater islands and as there is no provision to protect their land or livelihood, they may well be evicted from the land of the ancestors in near future,” he cautioned.

The NFF has termed the Draft Notification as a tool to further weaken the coastal environment instead of protecting it as it seeks to open up more and more coastal areas for commercial exploitation.

The NFF observed that it was ironical that all the activities that should not have been permitted along the coastland in order to protect the environment there, have actually been included in the list of permissible activities. For example, despite objections and even agitations over SEZ in different parts of the country, the Draft Notification provides for setting up SEZ in the coastland.

Hazardous and heavy polluting industries like thermal plants and nuclear plants are recommended in the coastland under the Draft Notification even though such plants would wreck havoc with not only the land but even the waters thereby affecting the marine life therein. Such plants do not need foreshore facilities as the discharge water is supposed to be cooled and then ejected. However, they are sought to be put up along the coastline so that the water need not be cooled before releasing directly in the sea. Besides the thermal plants have the notorious reputation of polluting the environment around it due to dust pollution and also heat generated.

What is most shocking is the fact that the Draft Notification provides for housing colonies in land admeasuring over 20,000 square metres thereby indicating that the government proposes to throw open the coastline for setting up new villages which will not only displace the traditional occupiers of the land but also create a demographic dichotomy that will be disastrous for the cultural and ecological fabric of the coastland.

Carte blanc is sought to be given to construction of ports with a special rapid EIA provision made for them. This is truly cause of concern as the government proposes to set up more than 300 private ports in the country and without a proper study, these ports will well end up destroying the beaches in India and leave it only with wharves and jetties and ports.

If ports, nuclear and thermal plants, SEZ and even housing colonies are set up along the coastland, where will be the space left for the fishermen and other traditional communities that have been living in these areas for centuries?

In another move that makes the government intention suspect, elevated roads are proposed anywhere and everywhere in the CRZ area while earlier only roads on stilts were proposed in areas under mangrove cultivation. NFF noted with concern that in some pockets of the country, traditional fishermen are being asked to vacate their residences on grounds that the government will be acquiring their land for public purpose to build roads on stilts. Hence, it appears that the government is seeking to displace the local inhabitants to grab their land which will be then given to private players to exploit commercially.

Besides, the Draft Notification seeks to regularize all the amendments to the 1991 Notification which have resulted in diluting the protection regime of the notification and that is why NFF asserts that the 2010 notification is defeatist as far as protection of the environment is concerned.

The NFF noted with concern that the Draft Notification has failed to incorporate any of the recommendations made at the 10 consultations held by the Minister for Environment and Forests as the main demand at all these consultations – right to live and livelihood of the people in the coastal region – is not reflected in the Draft Notification.

More significantly, the Coastal Zone Management Plans which are sought to be prepared within two years of the notification can be amended and changed within five years, thereby actually meaning within three years. This means that the use of coastal land will be changed every five years instead of adopting a more sedate and practical time module of 10 years.

The Draft Notification also appears to be yet another paper tiger meant to only to appease environmentalists as it has not been provided with any teeth to take penal action against those who violate even the diluted provisions of the Notification and more particularly those who carry out activities prohibited in the coastal regulation zone.

In yet another instance of this lackadaisical attitude of the Ministry, the Draft Notification has brought the sea area up to 12 nautical miles within its purview. However, except for prohibiting dumping of untreated waste and the like in this area, no other comments on activities prohibited or permitted in this zone find mention in the Draft Notification.

It is because of these and many other lacunae that the NFF has decided to launch a country wide agitation demanding the immediate withdrawal of the notification. As the first stage of the agitation, the NFF will shortly submit a point by point critique of the Draft Notification to the Ministry for Environment and Forests shortly.

From 15th October 2010 the agitations will start in different parts of the country with special emphasis on the coastal States and 29th October will be observed as an All India Protest Day with different kinds of agitation held in the State capitals and district headquarters on that day.

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