Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gujarat's coastal management authority "fails" to act against corporates, is "indifferent" towards local people

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study by an independent Delhi-based policy research institute has pointed to complete failure of Gujarat government’s coastal management authority to act against top corporates’ open violations of environmental norms in the coastal region. Giving instances of coastal projects undertaken by industrial groups of Adani, Reliance and Essar, the study says, though the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) may take cognizance of some violations, it would generally “drop” the cases citing “various reasons.”
Providing figures to prove its point, the study, sponsored by the Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Program Centre for Policy Research, “CZMAs and Coastal Environments: Two decades of regulating land use change on India’s coastline”, says that the minutes of the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) suggests in 2013 Gujarat’s state authority identified least number of cases of violations – 14 -- as compared to anywhere else in India.
The 180-page study, authored by Manju Menon, Meenakshi Kapoor, Preeti Venkatram, Kanchi Kohli and Satnam Kaur, says that, the minutes of 27th meeting of the NCZMA show that respective state coastal zone management authorities of Andhra Pradesh identified 126 cases, of Goa 198 cases, of Karnataka 69 cases, of Kerala 45 cases, of Maharashtra 435 cases, and of West Bengal 151 cases. Significantly, Gujarat’s coastline constitutes more than 20 per cent that of India.
Violations identified are regarding compliance with the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) Notification, which prohibits taking up development projects between the high tide level (HTL) and the low tide level (HTL).
Blocking of creek due to bunding at Surajbari, Kutch, Gujarat
Pointing towards corporate bias, the study says, during the meetings, as GCZMA’s minutes suggest, “it does not discuss projects concerning the local housing or community needs or for reconstruction/repair of traditional dwelling units. The projects discussed by it fall in the category of jetty/harbour/port, groynes and seawalls, industry, roads/bridges/highways and tourism facilities.”
Finding the working of the GCZMA indifferent, the study points to how it is “housed in the environment department” in Sachivalaya in Gandhinagar, the state capital, while its meetings are held in an organization on which it is supposed to keep a watch – the Gujarat Maritime Board, the state body responsible for ports development in Gujarat. In fact, the GCZMA “has involved GMB in verification of a number of cases of violations”, the study says.Suggesting how funds given to the GCZMA under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) by the World Bank for developing a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) were not utilized properly, the study says, Gujarat received 74.1 million dollars for CZMP for the Gulf of Kutch, most of which was spent on awareness creation for government officers, expenses of meetings, site visits, setting up an office in the GMB premises, and study tours.
The study says, “In Gujarat, the ICZM Plan is being prepared for the Gulf of Kutch. However, it has not been discussed in the meetings of the GCZMA. As shared by Hardik Shah, member-secretary, Gujarat SCZMA , ‘Gujarat SCZMA has not been able to hire any agency to carry out HTL and LTL demarcation as none of the agencies are willing to take it up’.”
Needing conservation: Painted storks at Tuna Port, Kutch, Gujarat
Worse, Gujarat has refused to form District Level Coordination Committees (DLCCs), meant for ensuring local participation, the study says. “The order to constitute DLCCs was issued by the State Government in October 2013. Most of them have not been constituted. On physical verification in 10 coastal districts of Gujarat, it was found out that eight had not constituted DLCCs till August 2014”, it adds.
Taking strong exception to Gujarat government having GCZMA in a non-coastal city (Gandhinagar), the study says, even special meetings are not held in coastal cities “to ensure that the coastal people have an easy in-person access to the authority.” It underlines, “While the public interface for the SCZMAs is both desirable for good governance and essential for transparency, it has been mostly absent”, adding, of the 15 members of the GCZMA, only one is from a coastal region.

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