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Explained: Coastal regulation zone rules (CRZ)

In the span of 23 seconds, two towering apartment complexes overlooking gorgeous views offered by the Maradu river, once the home to hundreds of families, erupted into a large mold of debris. Earlier in 2019, after a long and hard battle against the demolition, the Supreme Court of India had decreed the building to be violating the Coastal Regulation Zone Rules. Justice Arun Mishra, the lead judge on the bench is quoted as saying, “It was a painful duty for us” after receiving the report filed by the Kerala Government about the demolition conducted on January 11th and 12th. The court had ordered the government to pay 25 lakh rupees as compensation. Alongside this development, in July 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change identified 13 beaches across the country for Blue Flag certification. In order to make these beaches eligible for the certification, the government has passed a bill relaxing CRZ for these beaches thus allowing development in these areas.

What are CRZ rules and why they were introduced

This area of 7500 km affected by tidal waves of up to 500 meters from the High Tide Line and the land between the Low Tide Line and the High Tide line and are decreed as Coastal Regulation Zones. In 1986, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), under the Environment Protection Act, issued a notification for the regulation of coastal area activities knows as Coastal Regulation Zone rules 1991. The main purpose of CRZ is to restrict certain activities such as large buildings, creation of new productions, storage or removal of dangerous material, mining, or repossession and bunding, within a certain distance from the coastline. The reason for such a rule to be instituted was that areas adjacent to the sea are exceptionally fragile and any form of construction may disturb the ecological balance of the area. This would thereby affect the plethora of marine aquatic life-forms, both flora and fauna habituating in these areas. Thus, the CRZ rules argue that these areas need to be protected from such disturbances and unregulated development. The Government has effectively notified 4 different types or categories of the said Coastal Zone regions. These are:

  • CRZ-1: Ecologically sensitive areas considered to be crucial in sustaining the ecology of the coasts are said to be categorized as CRZ-1. They include national parks, marine parks, sanctuaries, reserve forests, wildlife habitats, mangroves and corals/coral reefs. Areas under CRZ-1 are usually situated between high and low tide lines.
  • CRZ-2: This zone are areas which have already been developed to the shorelines. Construction of unsanctioned constructions are prohibited in this zone.
  • CRZ-3: Areas that do not fit in the first 2 categories and are relatively undisturbed, being a part of rural or urban areas, are zones categorized under CRZ-3. Only specific agricultural and public facilities are allowed here. The Maradu flats came under this zone.
  • CRZ-4 : These include areas of coastal stretches in Lakshadweep, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and some other small islands which are not included as a segment of the other 3 zones. These areas exist in the sea area up to the regional limits. Undertakings such as fishing and other similar services are permitted in this zone. Releasing solid waste is prohibited on such land.

Salient Features

The salient features of the CRZ rules as mentioned in the official government notification are:

(i)         Allowing FSI as per current norms in CRZ areas: According to the CRZ, areas falling within CRZ-II, the Floor Space Index (FSI) has been frozen as per 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels, which means that no construction could occur in this area. However, in the CRZ, 2018 Notification, it has been decided to de-freeze the FSI and allow construction projects. This would allow redevelopment of these areas to meet the evolving needs of the population.

(ii)        Densely populated rural areas to be afforded greater opportunity for development: For CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two new categories have now been formulated as shown below:

(a)  CRZ-III A – These are areas with a population density of 2161 per square kilometre as. Such areas will have a No Development Zone (NDZ) of 50 meters from the high tide line as opposed to the 200 meters from the High Tide Line mentioned in the CRZ Notification, 2011.

(b)  CRZ-III B – Rural regions with a populace thickness of under 2161 per square kilometre shall have an NDZ of 200 meters from the HTL.

(iii)       Tourism infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted: Temporary tourism offices such as latrines, changing rooms, drinking water features etc. are allowed in shorelines. Such temporary tourism structures are permitted within the NDZ of the CRZ-III ranges as per the Notice. Be that as it may, a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL ought to be kept up for setting up of such offices.

(iv)      CRZ Clearances streamlined: The process for CRZ clearances have been streamlined over the years. Only projects/activities which are located in either CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) or CRZ IV shall be dealt with for clearance purposes by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated to the state government for faster and easier procedures.

(v)  A No Development Zone (NDZ) of 20 meters has been mandated for all islands.

(vi) All Ecologically Sensitive Zones have been agreed extraordinary significance: Particular rules related to the preservation and administration of plans of ecologically delicate ranges have been specified within the CRZ Notice.

(vii)      Pollution abatement has been accorded special focus: In order to address pollution in coastal areas, treatment services have been made accessible to activities in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards.

(viii)Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.

Current Changes

In early 2019, the Government of India decided to ease the CRZ regulations on a few beaches across the country in order to make them eligible for the Blue Flag certification program. The Blue Flag certification is an authentication that can be obtained by beaches, marinas, or tourism operators providing sustainable services, that serves as an eco-label which and an indication of high environmental and quality standards. The Environment Ministry issued the several beaches in India for the Blue Flag certification: Shivrajpur (Devbhumi Dwarka, Gujarat), Bhogave (Sindhudurg, Maharashtra), Ghoghla (Diu, Daman and Diu), Miramar (Panjim, Goa), Kasarkod (Karwar, Karnataka), Padubidri (Udupi, Karnataka), Kappad (Kozhikode, Kerala), Eden (Puducherry), Mahabalipuram (Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu), Rushikonda (Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh), Golden (Puri, Odisha), and Radhanagar (Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar). The Blue Flag certification however requires the construction of certain facilities such as portable toilet blocks, grey water treatment plants, a solar power plant, seating facilities, which the CRZ laws of India does not allow. Hence these restrictions were eased by the government which declared that “for the purpose of Blue Flag Certification in such identified beaches, the following activities and facilities shall be permitted in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), including Islands, subject to maintaining a minimum distance of 10 meters from HTL (High Tide Line),” through the gazette notification.

Conclusion

The Coastal Regulation Zone rules are rules formed which are deemed necessary for the protection and sustainability of our environment. These rules and regulation help save our fragile coastal ecosystems. However, the rules can also be a bane to the tourism and development sectors of these areas. The new amendment to the CRZ which eases the regulations thereby making the beaches eligible of the Blue Flag program and thus promotes eco-tourism and other needed development in the area while trying to maintain its ecological balance in a sustainable manner.  These new amendments, if implemented the right way, could be the economic, yet ecological friendly methods to ensure the development and sustenance of coastal areas in India.