Oceans |

What regulates our coastline: Coastal Regulation Zone Directives

Need for restrictions on Coastal Regulation Zone

India has a vast coastline with nine states and four union territories having a sea-line running along their borders. Consequently, large populations of people are dependent on the sea for their livelihood. The scenic beauty of the sea and coastal formations also attract tourists in huge numbers. Minerals like salt, potassium, magnesium, sand and gravel, limestone and gypsum, manganese nodules, phosphorites , volcanic deposits of metals, placer deposits and of course, water, are available in the sea and for this the sea bed is mined vigorously. Petroleum and other fuels are also found in some of India’s continental shelves.

For these purposes and more, buildings such as hotels, restaurants and industries are built on the beaches. Roads are sometimes built right next to the coast line for transportation of raw material or produce from the oceans. The local populations litter the sea by dumping ashes and household waste material while the tourists litter these areas by throwing garbage like plastic bottles, polythene bags etc. Untreated waste from industries, cities and towns were dumped directly into the sea, thereby polluting the sea immensely. To extract fuels and minerals, mining activities are conducted in the seabed and/or continental shelves, which disturb the natural ecosystem of the area and sometimes due to oil leakages, also cause pollution. Due to these and many more causes, the ecosystem of the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal has been disturbed tremendously. Naturally, who but the local population, whose livelihood depends on the sea, were most affected.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a notification in 1991, under the Environment Protection Act of 1986, to regulate the activities in coastal areas. As per this notification, the coastal land up to 500 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL) and up to 100 meters along banks of creeks, estuaries, backwater and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations, has been defined as falling under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). Under the CRZ notification, HTL is the line on land up to which the highest tide reaches during spring tide and LTL is line on land up to which the lowest tide reaches during spring tide.

To regulate the developmental activities on the coast, the notification classified the landward side into four categories:

  1. Category I (Coastal Regulation Zone -I): Ecologically sensitive and important areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty or historic importance or genetic diversity, areas which could sink as an effect of rising sea-levels and the area between the HTL and Low Tide Line (LTL).
  2. Category II (Coastal Regulation Zone -II): Already ‘developed’ areas on or very close to the shoreline i.e. areas that have buildings and roads right on the beaches.
  3. Category III (Coastal Regulation Zone -III): Seaside areas that do not fall into CRZ I or II categories, including rural areas.
  4. Category IV (Coastal Regulation Zone -IV): Coastline of the Indian islands that do not fall into CRZ I or II or III categories.
Coastal Regulation Zone and Boundaries

Indian waters have been blessed with many treasures like the immense marine biodiversity and the ability to provide a livelihood to a large number of people.

Each of these categories is regulated by a different set of directives. For example, no new construction is permitted in CRZ-I. Likewise in CRZ-II, buildings are permitted only on the landward side of the existing road according to the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of the state/union territory. CRZ-III is categorised as a ‘No Development Zone’, with a few exceptions and with the prior approval of the MoEF. The specifications for number of floors and height of the buildings in this zone are specified. In CRZ-IV category, all the regulations of CRZ I, II and III apply along with an additional condition of not disturbing the coral formations. The following activities are not permitted in all the CRZ areas, with a few exceptions for certain places, for which prior permission from the MoEF is required:-

  1. Setting up new industries or expanding existing industries.
  2. Manufacturing/handling/disposing hazardous substances.
  3. Setting up and expanding fish processing units.
  4. Setting up and expanding units for disposal of waste and effluents into the sea or any water bodies leading to the sea.
  5. Discharging of untreated waters from industries and human settlements.
  6. Dumping of city or town waste for the purposes of land filling.
  7. Dumping of ash or any waste.
  8. Land reclamation or disturbing the natural course of sea water.
  9. Mining of sand, rocks and other materials which are not available outside Coastal Regulation Zone areas.
  10. Extracting groundwater within 200 meters of HTL; extraction is permitted only between 200-500 meters zone when taken out manually through ordinary wells.
  11. Construction activities in ecologically sensitive areas.
  12. Any construction between LTL and HTL except facilities for carrying treated effluents and waste discharges, oil, gas and similar pipelines and dressing or altering of sand dunes, hills natural features including landscape changes for beautification, recreational and other such purposes.

(Coastal Regulation Zone Information of Tamil Nadu)

State-wise Implementation and Violation of CRZ Regulations

Under the 2011 Coastal Regulation Zone regulation, each state had to draw up its unique Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) according to its own needs. For example, West Bengal’s CZMP divided the coastline into 3 parts – Eastern, Central and Western Sector – and contained special provisions for the regulation and management of mangroves, leopard cat, hawksbill turtle and endangered birds.  On the other hand, the CZMP of Karnataka put special focus on fisheries. Different state authorities were entrusted with the responsibility to prepare the state CZMP. For example, Goa’s CZMP was prepared by Goa State Committee for Environment, Town and Country Planning of the Government of Goa whereas the Science, Technology and Environment Department of the Government of Kerala prepared Kerala’s CZMP. Each CZMP has been examined and approved by the MoEF.

According to a report named ‘Mapping the Extent of Coastal Regulation Zone Violations of the Indian Coast’ by D Nandakumar and M Muralikrishna, there is a long list of violations at the state level and at the central level. For example, Gujarat has given permission to ship wrecking as well as cement industries to operate at the Coastal Regulation Zone of Gujarat. The development of these industries has led to encroachment and pollution of the country’s best fishing grounds. Concurrently, land reclamation activities and pollution from industries located near the coast of Maharashtra are the major violations of the CRZ laws. Other states have also violated the CRZ regulations of MoEF and their own respective CZMPs in these ways and more, which raises the question that why there has been no substantial penalty levied on these states. But the answer is distressing: in the name of development, the center itself has violated the CRZ regulations time and again. Centrally governed mega projects in Kerala like Bekal Tourism Project, Goshree Island Development, Enron Thermal Power Plant and Seasin Project have carried out most of the activities which are not permitted under the CRZ regulations. Other mega projects of the center which have violated the directives are Modern Shrimp Farming, Tamil Nadu East Coast Road development and building the international port at Dahanu in Maharashtra. Even more disturbing is the fact that MoEF itself has granted permission to the Adani Chemical Port project at an uninhabited island which falls under Coastal Regulation Zone -I category.

Recommendations of Shailesh Nayak Committee

The six-member Shailesh Nayak Committee (SNC), headed by the former secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences Dr Shailesh Nayak, formed in 2014, submitted its report to the MoEF in 2015. The report was made public in 2016 only after Ms. Kanchi Kohli of the Center for Policy Research filed a Right to Information application and the Central Information Commission mandated MoEF to make it public. Keeping in mind the demands from all the coastline states and union territories, local communities and industries, the report proposed to weaken the existing rules. Some of its recommendations included changing the definition of ‘No Development Zone’ and allowing lightly regulated tourism in these areas, permitting each state to decide its own floor and height specifications, permitting slum redevelopment activities, suggesting the modernisation of fisheries, and allowing opening of seas for reclamation of land for ports and harbor and fisheries-related activities. Apart from these, the Committee has suggested that the HTL and LTL should be demarcated by states themselves and there should be Hazard Management Zone extending on the landward side of the Coastal Regulation Zone. The Ministry has suggested a few amendments to the SNC report but it has not been mandated as a law or a notification yet. Before accepting these recommendations an assessment of the impact it would have on the environment, economy, and the inhabitants of the coastal areas should be made thoroughly.

Indian waters have been blessed with many treasures like the immense marine biodiversity and the ability to provide a livelihood to a large number of people. Our coastal beauty is unmatched. The Government should not betray the cause of conservation and preservation of our natural resources solely to reap its economic benefits. A balance has to be struck between two sides of the coin – development and sustainable development.

Updated on 23rd April, 2018

According to the Draft CRZ notification of 2018 which was uploaded on the MOEF&CC site, “the Central Government, with a view to conserve and protect the unique environment of coastal stretches and marine areas, besides livelihood security to the fisher communities and other local communities in the coastal areas and to promote sustainable development based on scientific principles taking into account the dangers of natural hazards, sea level rise due to global warming”, has proposed to weaken the 2011 CRZ regulations. Following are the changes:

  1. It has been proposed that the 100 metres limit on land along “tidal influenced water bodies” be reduced to 50 metres or the width of a creek, whichever is less.
  2. In the CRZ regulations of 2011, the hazard line had been demarcated and the CRZ regulations applied to it. It has been proposed by the 2018 draft notification that the Hazard line should be from the CRZ and be used as a tool in disaster management and planning.
  3. It is proposed that only those projects located in CRZ-I and CRZ-IV shall require MoEF clearance and other projects shall be considered by Coastal Zone Management Authorities (CZMAs) in the states and union territories.
  4. In the CRZ regulations of 2011, the floor area ratio had been restricted for CRZ-II, the new draft proposes to lift these restrictions and let the concerned town authorities decide the floor area ratio as per their own understanding.

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