Acceding to the demands of the fishing community, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has agreed to drop or modify many provisions of the Draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) 2010 notification which when published in September had drawn the fishing communities’ ire.
The National Fishworkers Forum and other fishing community organizations had spanned the draft notification for its failure to reverse the liberal permissions that are provided for industries by the much amended CRZ notification of 1991 that is currently in effect.
The provisions for fishermen housing were also felt to be grossly inadequate. Though the draft notification came in the wake of a series of public consultations in all coastal states, most of them personally attended by Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment, fishing communities protested that their views and suggestions were not reflected in the notification.
The coast wide mobilisation against the draft notification under the leadership of the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) on 29th October 2010, found significant support from leaders cutting across the political spectrum and State Governments, notably Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Recognising the importance of fishing community cooperation for coastal protection, Jairam Ramesh personally intervened to break the deadlock. He invited leaders of the fishing community for a dialogue on 1st December 2010. This resulted in two rounds of discussions between the NFF and a Ministry representative at Mundra (Kutch) and Delhi that helped to narrow down the differences.
A NFF team led by its Chairperson Matanhy Saldanha and General Secretary Rambhau Patil met the Minister for a final round of discussions on 29th December at Delhi. Others who participated in the discussion were T.Peter, Pradip Chatterjee, Gilbert Rodrigo, Kiron Koli, V.Vivekanandan and Chandrika Sharma.
While recognising that some important differences remain, the Minister agreed to many of the fishing community demands. He announced that the new notification will come out in the first week of January after making the modifications agreed upon. In a significant policy pronouncement, he also agreed that the Ministry will start working on replacing the notification with an Act of Parliament.
Matanhy Saldanha appreciated the openness of the Minister for dialogue and thanked him for accepting most of the demands put forward by the fishing community. However, he said that the NFF has strong objections to some of the provisions that will remain in the notification like the installation of nuclear power plants on the coast. He said that the NFF will make a more detailed comment once the notification is finalised and brought out by the Ministry.