The draft notification proposes amendments which include exempting prior clearance for development projects, allowing removal of sand bars, and creating ‘permanent’ beach shacks. Local communities and experts fear these amendments will put the coastal ecology and vulnerable communities at risk.
The fishing communities have urged the environment ministry to withdraw the draft notification. Photo: Nidhi Jamwal
More than 100 fishing community members and fishers’ organisations including Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti, Vadarai Machhimar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society Ltd, and gram panchayats of Satpati and Mahim villages in Palghar district of Maharashtra have opposed the Union environment ministry’s recent draft notification to amend the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2019 — a law meant to protect coastal areas of the country.
The fishing communities have issued objection letters urging the environment ministry to withdraw the draft notification as “it was not in favour of the local communities”. Gaon Connection has a copy of these letters.
The draft notification, issued last month on November 1 proposes changes that include allowing temporary beach shacks to be retained during the monsoon season, allowing sand bars to be removed by coastal communities, and exempting prior clearance for development and production of oil and natural gas.
Experts believe these proposed amendments will not only disrupt the ecology of these areas, but will also increase the risk of environmental damage further endangering human lives and coastal and marine biodiversity.
“In times of climate change and global warming, where the impacts of the same are evident in the coastal areas, the Environment Ministry should make all necessary efforts to protect the coastal communities and the coastal environment to ensure food safety and safety of the coastal communities,” Mumbai-based Dhwani Shah, research associate, Centre for Financial Accountability, told Gaon Connection.
“However, the ministry is doing everything just opposite to the actual objective of introducing CRZ Notification in the first place,” Shah added. Her organisation works with the aim to bring in accountability in financial institutions who lend money to development projects.
As per the draft notification dated November 1, the temporary structures such as beach shacks in Goa and Maharashtra may be retained during the monsoon months of June to August. Such structures are customarily put up between September and May.
“These temporary structures are being made permanent. If this happens then common public lands [in coastal areas] would be lost to private persons,” said Shah, who is demanding the withdrawal of the draft notification.
“The removal of the structures was important as during monsoon, the coastal areas could rejuvenate and there would be minimal invasion of human activities on the ecologically sensitive ecosystems, the flora and fauna of the coast,” she added.
The notification also proposes allowing sand bars to be removed by coastal communities by manual method in non-mechanised dinghies or small boats using baskets/buckets in specified time and specific quantity.
“Sand bars are naturally occurring temporary sand deposition (accretion) along the coast. If they are developed in the navigation of the fisherfolk, they should be removed. However, giving a free hand to the removal of the sandbars without scientific approach and regulation would promote illegal sand removal and also sand mining,” said Shah.
Among other proposals, the Union environment ministry seeks to exempt prior clearance for development and production of oil and natural gas and exploratory drilling operations. Experts fear this would lead to the abandonment of oil and gas wells that continuously release oil impacting the marine flora and fauna.
It is to be noted that the natural ecosystems such as mangroves, mudflats, intertidal areas, and coral reefs ecosystems play a substantial role in supporting livelihoods and carbon sequestration.
Interestingly, the draft notification was issued when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was making commitments to reduce India’s carbon footprint at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this year.
Meanwhile, the Union ministry has given a two-month time period to the public for making objections and suggestions on the draft notification for consideration. The deadline comes to an end on December 30. Comments on the draft notification can be emailed to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.