Amid incessant protests by the fishermen community against the draft Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Plan (TNCZMP), the state government had organised a public hearing a month ago. The hearing, which was organised at Chennai Port during the last week of April was nothing but a waste of taxpayers’ money, say environmentalists.
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What is CZMP
The Government of India has issued a direction to all the coastal states and union territories to prepare a plan for protection of zones with rich marine biodiversity, from developmental activities. The plan should be drafted, based on the rules prescribed in the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011. The Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority, the nodal agency in charge of drafting the plan, has released its second draft plan in January, The draft attracted opposition from all quarters for not adhering to the provisions in CRZ Notification, 2011.
Confusion over Hazard line
The uploaded draft does not appear to be a plan, but just a map which fails to include several key aspects, including a hazard line. The hazard line is marked after surveying the shoreline changes due to natural erosion and climate change, and taking into account the predicted sea level rise for the next few decades. Absence of this line will put the dwelling units of the coastal communities at great risk from natural disasters. “The CRZ notification, 2011 bars development within 500 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL). However, if the hazard line is marked (even) at seven kilometres from the HTL, that will considered as the protected zone. The chances of marking the hazard line beyond seven kilometres from the HTL are remote,” said Saravanan Kasi, a fishermen leader from Urur Kuppam.
There have been contradictory statements about the hazard line. The central government’s draft CRZ Notification, 2018, which is in the public domain, states that the Survey of India (SoI) marked the hazard line and submitted it to the states through National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management. But Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) from the Tamil Nadu Government says otherwise.
“Survey of India is yet to complete the demarcation of hazard line along the east coast of India, though they have completed the same on the west coast. The line would be included after it is done,” A V Venkatachalam, director of Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) told Citizen Matters.
“The statement by TNSCZMA was also in the counter affidavit filed by the department in the Madras High Court. The TNSCZMA appears to be wantonly violating the CRZ notification, 2011 and the orders of the court,” said Pooja Kumar from the Coastal Resource Centre, an environmental organisation that campaigns against unsustainable development.
*The draft CZMP is widely opposed by the fisherfolk in TN as there is no mention of the protection of their lands and ecologically sensitive areas. “Besides the hazard line, the plan should specifically map out places such as community halls, schools, panchayats and even the localities for resting the boats and drying fish. It should serve as a directory to know about where to fish and where not,” explained Saravanan.
*The draft, if approved, would affect the life of every citizen from the coastal community, not just fisher folk. Once implemented, the plan will encourage unsustainable development along the coast, jeopardising the ecological balance. “The long and determined fight against various government departments that are exploiting the coastal regulatory zone areas in Ennore, will go waste. What was termed unlawful in the 2011 notification is lawful in the plan,” said Pooja Kumar.
*The preamble of the CRZ notification mandates consulting the stakeholders before drafting the plan. Fishermen, being the local communities whose livelihood is dependent on the coastal stretches, were not consulted at any stage of the draft making.
*Local level coastal zone management maps (for each district) should have been prepared for the government agencies to facilitate implementation of CZMP. Colour coding to demarcate various Coastal Regulatory Zones is a must. These aspects have not been addressed.
* Infrastructure requirements of the fishing communities have not been included in the plan. “Housing plan, livelihood details and coastal commons is of utmost importance to fishing communities. CZMP cannot be ready for public hearing without these components,” said Jesu Rethinam, who petitioned against the draft CZMP before the Madras High Court.
* The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal in Chennai had set aside the draft maps prepared by TNSCZMA in 2014 for non compliance with the CRZ Notification, 2011. Yet, the department has gone forward with the plan.
Timeline of Developments
1996: The Tamil Nadu government had prepared and forwarded Coastal Zone Management Plan Maps for its entire coast on the basis of CRZ Notification 1991. Ministry of Environment and Forests approved it.
2011: CRZ notification gets amended. The environment ministry directs the state to prepare a new CZMP based on the 2011 notification. The old plan was to be valid only for a period of 24 months.
2013: Tamil Nadu prepared and uploaded maps calling them draft Coastal Zone Management plans. Public hearing was scheduled in the 13 coastal districts but most of these hearings except for 5 districts were cancelled / postponed due to public opposition.
2014: The National Green Tribunal issued an order of injunction restraining the TNSCZMA therein from conducting public hearing based on the inchoate plans prepared then.
2017: National Green Tribunal (Principal Bench) takes notice of the undue delay in the preparation of the hazard line and finalisation of the CZMP, and directs the delineation of the Hazard line and submission of CZMPs to MOEFCC under the 2011 Notification before 30th April 2018.
Feb 2018: TNSCZMA uploads the non compliant maps as draft CZMPs and calls for public comments on the same by April 6, 2018.
Since the TNSCZMA has assured that it would revise the plan as per the CRZ Notification, 2011, the Madras High Court has not stayed the plan. Meanwhile, the central government has uploaded the draft CRZ Notification, 2018 in the public domain. “If it gets amended, the plan would have to be changed again as per the new rules. The draft 2018 notification favours strategic projects at the coast, which would legalise all the exploitation happening at the Ennore Coast,” said Pooja Kumar.