PANJIM: With the State government giving its thumbs up to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest’s (MoEF) draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification 2018, fears are being raised that the new rules will destroy the State’s marine ecology with environmentalists and social activists raising objections claiming that it has concentrated on norms which will benefit builders to develop beachfront properties rather than protecting the environment.
Activists, demanding immediate scraping of the draft CRZ-2018 notification, have threatened to challenge it in the court.
The State’s nod came in a communication addressed to the Union ministry by State Environment Director Ravi Jha on June 29. Jha, in his communication to MoEFCC Director Arvind Nautiyal, stated that the Goa government, after consulting stakeholders, wanted traditional economic activities, existing in notified CRZ areas for generations, to continue.
The notification, which proposes expanding land area for development activities and tourism infrastructure while also simplifying the procedure for CRZ clearances, classified areas with a population density of more than 2,161 per sq km as per 2011 Census as CRZ-III. In such areas, ‘no development zone (NDZ)’ – measured from the high tide line on the landward side – has been reduced to 50 metres from the existing 200 metres from the HTL.
In areas with a population density of less than 2,161 per sq kms, designated as CRZ-III B, the NDZ continues to be 200 metres from the high tide line (HTL). However, the NDZ shall not be applicable in areas falling within notified port limits.
While fishing groups, like the Goenchea Raponkarancho Ekvott (GRE), have opposed the draft CRZ notification, claiming that it fails to uphold the rights of traditional fishermen, NGOs have opposed it for reducing the CRZ area.
“It is not clear why the words ‘development in coastal areas’ has been added to the preamble, particularly since the raison d'être of the CRZ notification has been to reduce and eliminate non-essential activities that do not require to be on the water front. We suggest that these words be deleted. We would also suggest that the word ‘development’ be defined to exclude and eliminate all ‘development’ activities,” GRE president Agnelo Rodrigues said.
He added, “We unanimously reject the draft CRZ 2018 as already 20 per cent of the 105 km of Goa’s coastline has already been affected by erosion. The notification should make it absolutely clear that only those activities that essentially require the presence of the waterfront should be permitted within the CRZ. Residential, commercial and industrial activities that do not require the waterfront should not be permitted within the CRZ.”
Activists claim that the land area falling between the Hazard Line and 500mts from HTL on the landward side, in case of seafront and between the Hazard Line and 100mts line in case of tidal influenced water body the word ‘hazard line’ denotes the line demarcated by MoEF through the Survey of India taking into account tides, waves, sea level rise and shoreline changes, has been deleted.
Another activist from Colva, Judith Almeida said, “MoEF should have further strengthened and tightened all the loopholes used by the violators to destroy the environment. This notification will further open areas that will be exposed to destruction by the ingress of sea water. Also, our farmers, traditional fishermen and villages will suffer the brunt of this notification. Only the builders will be benefited by this while farmers and fishermen will be affected severely. We will approach the court.”
For the first time, the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), which prepared the beach carrying capacity report, also mapped sand dunes as per the CRZ Notification 2011, using high resolution aerial photographs and the landward extent of sand dunes within 200m in Coastal Regulation Zone is calculated to be 2.3 sq km which translates into 23, 20,918 sq mts. However, it did not identify or mark the sand dunes present in the villages with CRZ-I areas in the coastal areas and locate them on map.
“They have called this NCSCM from Chennai to do all the surveys. With the new rules coming in there will be major changes all along the coastline. The coastal villages which are pristine or half pristine will change dramatically,” said activist Abhijit Prabhudesai.