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Refusing to reveal report on environmental concern, Govt of India goes ahead with Shenzen-type coastal zones

By Our Representative
Even one-and-a-half years after Government of India (GoI)-appointed high-level committee under Dr Shailesh Nayak, Director, Ministry of Earth Sciences, submitted its review the 2011 law on Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ), the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has refused to make its public, leading to policy confusion, alleges a top advocacy group.
The result is that, even 25 years after the GoI came up with the first CRZ notification in 1991, there is utter lack of clarity on how the GoI wishes to safeguard the interests of India’s coastal environment and livelihood. This state of affairs has taken place despite “multiple reviews”. Meanwhile, in June 2015, the MoEFCC came up with yet another draft amendment for CRZ notification.
The result of all this is that the CRZ law has “turned into a piece of law that is difficult to understand and implement”,  says the advocacy group Centre for Policy Research’s (CPR’s) Namati Environment Justice Programme.
The statement comes amidst Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, one of the top aides of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  strongly pitching for India the creation of “Shenzhen-style” Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs), to begin with one India’s western coast and another on the eastern coast, even as keeping mum on environmental concerns.
“To be successful”, Panagariya has said in a recent blog, “These zones would have to cover a large area (Shenzhen covers 2,050 square kilometres) and would have to have some existing infrastructure and economic activity.”
He adds, “They would need to must provide a business friendly ecosystem including ease of doing business, especially, ease of exporting and importing, swift decisions on applications for environmental clearances and speedy water and electricity connections.”
He further wants these zones to be created by providing “a tax holiday for a pre-specified period” and incentivizing “early investments in the zones”, say for a period of three to four years – all with the aim to “attract large firms” interested in serving India’s export markets.
According to CPR, as of today, the CRZ notification, which is supposed to regulate India’s coastline, does not define “social or environmental outcomes attached to its implementation”.
In fact, CPR says, “The notification states its objectives as the protection of local communities living along the coast and the conservation of the coastline. However, it does not commit to any measurable outcomes that would help evaluate the performance of the law.”
“CRZ Notification mandates district level committees to be formed in coastal districts with a minimum of three representatives of the traditional coastal communities”, yet these committees “are yet to set these up”, and where they have been set up “they have not been given a role in decision-making”, the CPR says.
Then, says CPR, coastal zone management plans are prepared “without any participation of coastal communities or not at all”, causing “huge problems in implementation of the law on the ground”, leading to “many arbitrary decisions.”
Then, CPR says, the coastal zone management authorities (CZMAs), the main bodies implementing the CRZ notification, is weak, because “almost all the members on these authorities are primarily associated with other government departments or academic institutions”. In fact, they “do not have a public interface for redressal of grievances of coastal communities arising due to CRZ decisions.”

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