In the month of March this year, there were several newspaper reports on how Kerala and Maharashtra have stopped recommending projects proposed in coastal areas for environment clearance. The Department of Environment in Maharashtra and the Maradu municipality of Kerala have refused to give any building permissions in its coastal areas since 1 February 2015. The reason for this is the expiry of validity of the existing Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) for all the coastal states and union territories on 31 January 2015.

 

However, on 31 March 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued an amendment to the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011 extending the validity of the existing CZMP to 31 January 2016.

 

With this amendment, the appraisal of project proposals for environment clearance would have resumed in Kerala by now, but not perhaps in Maharashtra. The term of the Maharashtra State Coastal Zone Management Authority (SCZMA) – one of the state-level CZMAs or institutions created for the implementation of the CRZ Notification in the country – got over in March 2015.


 

Construction in the coastal areas. Pic: Kanchi Kohli

 

Newspaper reports indicate that it got reconstituted on 13 April 2015 though the reconstitution order is yet to be uploaded on the website of the MoEFCC. As per the report, the reconstituted authority has its first meeting scheduled for 5 May 2015.

 

Repeated extensions to the existing CZMP

 

To understand why the extension of the validity period for CZMPs till January 2016 calls for scrutiny, one has to look back at the way the issue has been dealt with over the years.

The CRZ Notification was first issued by the Central Government in 1991 using clause 3 (2) (v) of the Environment Protection Act 1986 that empowers the Central Government to restrict certain activities in certain areas for the protection of the environment. The notification mandated that the states (and union territories) would prepare a draft CZMP and submit the same within a period of one year from the date of the notification.

 

However, the preparation and approval of the CZMPs took more than five years and came about only after directions from the Supreme Court. The CZMPs as submitted by the coastal states were approved by the MoEF in September 1996.

 

Shortly afterward, after a series of reviews by specially created committees and subsequent amendments, the CRZ Notification of 1991 was replaced by a new notification in 2011, which required all the coastal state governments to prepare fresh CZMPs under the new notification. These would replace the CZMPs of 1996, subject to approval of the MoEFCC.

 

Once approved, the CZMP would be used as a reference document by the State/Union Territory Coastal Zone Management Authorities (S/UTCZMAs) while appraising project applications, identifying CRZ violations and regulating activities on the coast.

 

The CRZ Notification 2011, initially stipulated a time frame of two years for the states and UTs to prepare their respective draft CZMPs. It also stated that the CZMPs approved in 1996 would be valid till 31 January 2013. However, the states and union territories had not prepared the CZMPs till the middle of 2013. Noticing this, the MoEF, in August 2013, extended the validity of the existing CZMPs for another year, till 31 January 2014.

 

In the same amendment, the MoEF asked the states to prepare their CZMPs by 30 September 2013. But in May 2014, the MoEFCC again extended the deadline for the preparation of the new CZMP to 30 September 2014 and made the existing CZMP valid till 31 January 2015.

 

This practice seems to have lapsed into an ongoing cycle since after two months of the expiry of the approved CZMPs of all coastal states and UTs, the MoEFCC, recently, again amended the notification for a third time,making the existing ones valid for another year.

 

CZMP and reconstitutions to CZMAs

 

This time the MoEFCC, along with amendments to extend the validity of the existing CZMPs (as approved in 1996), also issued reconstitution orders for the SCZMAs in Kerala and Odisha and for the National CZMA.

 

However, there are other SCZMAs whose terms expired, but which have not been reconstituted or reconstituted only after a considerable lag.

 

The table below shows the reconstitution status of CZMAs whose terms have expired during the last one year (as per the constitution orders available till date on the website of the MoEFCC):

 

CZMA

Date of expiry of term

Date of reconstitution

Kerala

December 21, 2014

March 31, 2015

Maharashtra

March 6, 2015

Pending

Odisha

March 19, 2015

April 1, 2015

Tamil Nadu

January 19, 2015

Pending

NCZMA

April 19, 2014

April 1, 2015

 

Table: Reconstitution status of CZMAs whose term expired in last one year (Source: MoEFCC website accessed on 2 May, 2015)

 

The terms of the Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu SCZMAs, which got over in March and January this year respectively, had not been extended for more than a month following the date of lapse. This is despite the recommendation of the Department of Environment of Maharashtra to reconstitute the same authority for the state.

 

While in February and March, projects proposed for the coast of Maharashtra were not being appraised due to the lack of a CZMP, they could not be appraised in the month of April in absence of an authority meeting to examine the proposals against the CZMP.

 

Missing action on decisions over CZMP preparation

 

Another lacuna that is conspicuous in the above table is the absence of an NCZMA for almost a year. The NCZMA’s term got over in April last year and it has been reconstituted only a month back. It is pertinent to examine what this one year of non-existence of NCZMA has meant for CZMP preparation.

 

To understand the implications of this lapse, let us look at key aspects of CZMP preparation and associated difficulties. The CRZ Notification 2011, in Annexure I, provides detailed guidelines for the preparation of CZMPs. It requires that the CZMPs be prepared along with maps classifying the CRZ areas in the scale of 1:25,000. These maps are to be based on the demarcation of High Tide Line (HTL) and Low Tide Line (LTL).

 

Demarcation of these lines can be carried out by any of the seven agencies authorised to do so by the environment ministry. The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) is another institution which can carry out the tidal demarcation.

 

Tidal demarcation is a lengthy and expensive process. The same has been acknowledged by the SCZMAs in their meetings, particularly for the fact that no separate fund has been allocated for the task. Also, since the CRZ notification does not prescribe any particular methodology, different agencies have adopted different procedures for demarcating the HTL/LTL.

The cost and time consumed in the exercise have also varied across agencies and many a time have gone much beyond what had been anticipated. Hence the authorised agencies have not been able to accommodate the demarcation task for all the nine states and four UTs. The Gujarat SCZMA, for instance, till August 2013, had not been able to hire an agency to carry out the task, as no agency was willing to take it up.

 

Let us now go back in time to the days when the NCZMA existed and held meetings. In June 2013, the NCZMA was contemplating authorising more agencies for HTL-LTL demarcation, which could have eased the situation to some extent. It also acknowledged that there is no standard procedure for HTL/LTL demarcation and preparation of CRZ maps.

 

It therefore decided to constitute a committee under the chairmanship of Dr Shailesh Nayak, director, Ministry of Earth Sciences, with the seven authorised agencies as members and NCSCM as member convenor, to come up with a uniform procedure for HTL/LTL demarcation. It also asked this committee to bring clarity on cost, time and services to be involved in the tidal demarcation.

 

However, what transpired from such consideration and contemplation is not known. The term of the NCZMA got over in April 2014. For almost a year there was no NCZMA, the platform that had been much used by SCZMAs to voice their concerns regarding CRZ implementation. The minutes of the meetings, if any, conducted from June 2013 till NCZMA lapsed in April 2014 are not available on the website of the MoEFCC.

 

Nothing has been published in the public domain over this period in the form of circulars, memorandums or amendments, which could have come about based on the findings of the above-mentioned committee or the NCZMA’s decisions. Instead, in June 2014, another committee was constituted under the same chairmanship but with a different set of members, to suggest changes to the CRZ Notification.

 

Whether the mandate of the earlier mentioned committee has been merged with that of this committee would be known only when the report of this committee is made public.

 

The present status

 

Despite the above mentioned difficulties related to tidal demarcation, the states have been trying to complete their CZMPs under the CRZ Notification, 2011. Staying ahead of the other coastal states so far, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu SCZMAs have prepared district wise draft CZM maps.

 

While Karnataka has uploaded the maps for all its coastal districts on the website of Karnataka SCZMA, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have uploaded maps of a few of their coastal districts on the websites of the respective governments. The process of public consultation has been initiated in the three states.

 

Other coastal states (Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha) are still in the process of preparing the draft CZMP as per the CRZ Notification, 2011. Since the SCZMAs are responsible for submitting the draft CZMPs to the MoEFCC, pending reconstitutions of SCZMAs would also impact their CZMP submission.

 

Arrested public participation in coastal planning

 

Now that the NCZMA has been reconstituted, the old CZMPs are still valid and states are in the process of preparing new CZMPs, one would assume that things would start rolling again. Even if the recent amendments and orders have not addressed the causes of delay in CZMP preparation, one can hope that the reconstituted NCZMA would pick up from where it left off and can streamline the HTL/LTL demarcation process.

 

As far as pending CZMA reconstitutions are concerned, those would be done sooner or later. But what has still been missed is the way public participation is being attempted in the CZMP preparation.

 

The CRZ Notification 2011 requires the state governments to prepare local level CRZ maps on cadastral or village scale (1:4000). The notification also mandates that public consultations be carried out to seek recommendations and objections on the draft CZMP.

 

However, it does not tie the two stipulations together. It does not state the scale of the maps to be used for public consultations.  While Karnataka has been conducting public hearings in coastal villages with maps prepared at 1:4000 scale, Tamil Nadu is providing maps of 1:25,000 scale for the same.



 

Informal use of the coastal space by local communities for net repair. Pic: Meenakshi Kapoor


The CRZ notification 2011 also stipulates that the fishing villages, common properties of the fishing communities, jetties, ice plants, fish drying platforms, etc be indicated on the CZM maps prepared on cadastral scale. If these spaces, which are used informally by the local communities for activities such as boat parking, fish drying, net making and the like are marked on the CRZ maps, one would be able to ensure that future development on the coast does not sidestep these traditional uses of the coastal land.

 

These are informal spaces which are usually not documented in government records. Thus for immediate identification and demarcation of these spaces, community participation in the exercise becomes crucial. But if the CZMP maps shared with the communities are not in cadastral scale, they cannot make much out of them.

 

Incidentally, the CRZ Notification 2011 is not the first instance where the issue of preparation of CZM maps on cadastral scale had been brought up. Prior to it, many SCZMAs had shared with the NCZMA their inability to work with the CZMP maps due to their incompatibility with the village level maps.

 

If the SCZMAs need maps in the scale of 1:4000 for appraising projects and identifying violations, communities cannot be expected to locate and mark plots on the maps made in the scale of 1:25,000. Consultations if conducted this way could turn out to be mechanical exercises that would defeat the purpose of public participation in coastal planning.

 

Effective plans to realise CRZ objectives

 

Lack of standard procedures and timelines for tidal demarcation, missing criteria for selection of agencies for the same and no clear allotment of funds are the innate gaps in the CRZ Notification that have resulted in delays in CZMP preparation. While the institutions at the central and state level have attempted to fill these gaps, their delayed reconstitutions have come in the way.

 

To add to these technical and administrative shortcomings, there is a larger threat of traditional uses of space being ignored in coastal planning due to loopholes in the manner of public consultations.

 

The CRZ Notification was issued with the objectives of conserving coastal areas, protecting livelihoods and developing the coast sustainably. The CZMP contextualises the CRZ notification for a coastal stretch and thus becomes the basis of coastal planning. As much as its preparation requires technical expertise and administrative support, it also needs communities’ participation beyond the perfunctory. Only when it is prepared this way, will it aid in the realisation of CRZ objectives.

 

REFERENCES

 

  • Coastal Zone Management: Better or Bitter Fare? Manju Menon, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol - XLII No. 38, 22 September, 2007, pp 3838-3840

  • CZMAs and Coastal Environments: Two decades of regulating land use change on India’s coastline.CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program, India. (in print).

  • Extension for coastal plan granted. Clara Lewis, TNN. 10 April, 2015

  • Govt forms new panel, fresh hope for 117 stalled CRZ projects, Manasi Phadke, The Indian Express. 30 April, 2015.

  • Maharashtra without CRZ management plan since January. Priyanka Kakodkar, TNN. 11 March, 2015

  • Maradu Residents in a  fix over CRZ norms. Sudha Nambudiri, TNN. 25 March, 2015

  • MoEF team,Ministers to discuss CRZ norms today, The Hindu, 22 August 2014