Ex-MLA and chairperson of the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) Matanhy Saldanha has expressed his shock over the Coastal Regulation Zone 2011 as notified by the Ministry for Environment and Forests as many of the issues agreed have not been incorporated in the notification.
Revealing that the NFF had four rounds of negotiations with the Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and his specially designated officer Dr. Senthilvel, during which the two had agreed upon various issues that would be incorporated in the notification and further had agreed to disagree on issues where no meeting ground was found.
Matanhy pointed out that at the very first meeting, the minister himself had agreed to drop the proposal for “roads on stilts” on grounds that there was ample of scope for its misuse. “However, despite the promise from the minister himself, the proposal for roads on stilts is mentioned in the notification,” he lamented.
Besides, although it was agreed that “not less than three” representatives of the fishing community would be appointed to the national and state level Coastal Zone Management Authorities, the same is not reflected in the notification where representation is sought to be given to “coastal inhabitants including the fishing community’. This, he alleged, is an attempt to continue to marginalize the fishing community which can be easily identified, while “coastal communities” is a general term that cannot be classified.
He also pointed out that the Ministry had agreed to modify the ‘Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas’ to Community Managed Coastal Reserves and the NFF was even asked to draft the contents of this change. However, discarding the draft submitted by NFF, the ministry has retained the ‘Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas’. “While the ministry has provided more scope for locals participation in the CVCA, the Community Managed Coastal Reserves as envisaged would have been able to deal with all the issues along the coastline which is not within the scope of the CVCA which will not be able to address the problems faced by the fishing community in Sindhdurg and other districts of Maharashtra,” he said.
Matanhy also expressed reservation over the provision permitting construction within the 100 to 200 metre ‘No Development Zone’ in CRZ II areas as it has been “very loosely worded”, which he said would provide the loophole for vested interests not only to exploit the coastal land but also to harass and marginalize the fishing community.
He said the NFF had asked that this facility be given only to fishing community and be restricted only to fishing villages so that they could pursue their traditional occupations. However, by keeping it open ended to all communities, there is a scope for its abuse as the “traditional coastal communities’ cannot be identified and the need for their proximity to the sea is not known.
He also regretted that the ministry has not put in writing its agreement that the State level Coastal Zone Management would be open for revision after ten years and instead retained the five year period as mentioned in the Draft Notification.
In view of these discrepancies in what was agreed upon and what was finally notified, he said the NFF will be left with alternative but to agitate against the notification. “It is indeed quite sad that we have been let down so badly as throughout the discussions we were under the impression that the ministry was progressive and willing to genuinely address our grievances,” he said adding that it appears that the Ministry was only hoodwinking them.