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CRZ - A Careful Response Zone!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 14:15 Hrs  [IST]

We have examined the first five pages of the MoEF&CC’s Public Notice F No.19-112/2013-1A-111 of 18.04.2018. It is the Draft CRZ Notification 2018 and the public has been given 60 days to respond. Curiously, the published response has been warm and welcoming. So here’s the really bad news.

When you find that great piece of real-estate, washed by the warm waters of the Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal; and you pay your consultant; and you buy it, making sure that you keep it a deep, dark, secret from your competitors; and you lay the first brick, along comes a gap-toothed little man who says “But you can’t develop this land because birds are nesting on it!”

Absurd? See para 2.1.1.(a).(x) of the Notification. Here, also are a few of the other quick-sands that lie hidden in this Notification

1(ii) The term during the driest period of the year is vague. Which year? Or is it determined by the average of many years? The area should be physically demarcated on the ground by a specific authority on a specified date using hardedged criteria laid down by the Centre. After that, Climate Change and the vagaries of the weather cannot be used to demolish developments.

Explanation to 1(ii) ..tidal influenced water bodies can also be subjected to many interpretations. Does it, too, depend only on levels of salinity? In both the Mississippi and the Amazon, sea fish such as sharks have been reported in the upper reaches of creeks and estuaries far from the sea. The presence of such oceanic fauna, at considerable distances from the ocean, could be cited as proof that these inland waters were tidal influenced water bodies. This can be cured by adding but not to exceed a distance of xxx m. from the HTL.

2.1.1.(a).iv. What is a Biologically active mudflat? We have spotted, and telecast in one of our TV series, green, algae-looking, life in the mud of a sulphurous hot spring in Ganga Nahani a.k.a Ganga Nani in Uttarakhand. Are any mudflats biologically inert? Does this imply that any development on any mudflat is illegal?

2.1.1.(a).x. While birds such as River Terns and Swifts tend to nest in colonies, many other species are loners. How many nests are needed to qualify a place as Nesting grounds of birds? Words such as An Officially Protected Nesting Ground of Birds would be more specific and ensure legal safeguards.

2.1.1.(b) Unless a deadline is given for States and Union Territories to formulate a detailed environment management plan this will subject developers to the harassment of bureaucratic after-thought.

2.2 In the definition of CRZ-II are the presence of sewerage mains essential ingredients? If they are then we can see many coastal hamlets, popular with tourists, falling outside the definition of CRZ-II.

3.1 This section, entitled Areas Requiring Special Consideration in the CRZ is likely to bring the entire Notification into disrepute. It gives the impression that the Ministry, and by implication the Central Government, is scared of handling politically sensitive areas. Some areas are specified but, by using the words such as before listing them the Ministry leaves itself open to include more areas in the future. Also included for special treatment are inland backwater islands and islands along the mainland coast and, CRZ falling within the municipal limits of Greater Mumbai. But Kochi, Chennai, Puducherry and Vizag are not mentioned. Nor, amazingly, is Goa.

4. The last sentence on page 5 is delightfully vague. It says Adequate measures for management and disposal of plastic materials shall be undertaken in the CRZ. Not a word is mentioned, however, about what is adequate, what these measures are, or who will undertake them?

These, then, are a few of the hazards that lie hidden in the first five of the thirty-five page Notification. Your legal eagles should be able to point out the others. But if you can swallow what the MoEF&CC has served for you then all we can say is Bon appetit!

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