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RTI plea: It took Govt of India 16 months to disclose report recommending new coastal regulation norms

Kanchi Kohli
By Our Representative
Sixteen months after a Right to Information (RTI) application was filed, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has disclosed a copy of the “Report of the Committee to Review the Issues relating to the Coastal Regulation Zone, 2011” to Kanchi Kohli, a well-known expert with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environment Justice Programme.
This disclosure came after an order of Information Commissioner Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu on May 13, 2016 which stated that the ministry "cannot invent a new defence or exemption such as ‘the report is under submission’, ‘file is pending consideration’ and ‘unless approved it cannot be given’, etc, which are not available under RTI Act, 2005, such an illegal refusal will amount to denial of information which would invite penal proceedings under Section 20 of RTI Act, 2005.”
In a statement CPR-Namati says, “The report has important recommendations Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification 2011. This notification has framework for conservation of coastal and local livelihoods through clauses land use change, proactive conservation initiatives and mapping of the coastal zone.”
Apart from recommending the framework for a new draft CRZ notification, the report proposes a “conservation, protection and management Framework for CRZ-1 areas” that are considered to be ecologically fragile area and with dense mangroves, coral reefs, nesting grounds etc.
The report proposes the devolution of powers to state and union territory governments along with local authorities for CRZ II (built up cities and towns), CRZ III (rural areas) and CRZ IV (12 nautical miles into the sea) areas. “These are for activities not covered under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006”, says CPR-Namati statement.
The report recommends that buildings can be constructed behind existing structures and roads in CRZ II areas as per existing Town and Country Planning norms”, even as seeking division of “CRZ III areas a densely populated rural areas and rural Areas with lesser regulation for the former through the reduction of the “no development zone” to 50 metres.
Dr Shailesh Nayak
The report also seeks to promote housing infrastructure and slum redevelopment activities in CRZ II and tourism in CRZ III areas based on town and country planning norms and other state regulations, but recommends only temporary tourism facilities in the No Development Zone (NDZ).
However, it permits construction of permanent tourism facilities, and seeks reclamation of the sea bed in CRZ IV area for “ports and harbour, fisheries-related activities and other infrastructure required in the larger public interest such as bridges, sealinks on stilts, roads, important national installations related to coastal security, tourism”.
Set up in June 2014, under the chairmanship of Dr Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, the purpose of the committee was to examine issues of coastal states related and also “the errors or inconsistencies and procedural simplification in the said Notification.”
The committee members had extensive meetings with the governments of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala and also invited representatives of state and union territory governments for a meeting in New Delhi.
“No consultations were carried with coastal communities, fishing unions or private parties as per the information disclosed in the report. The report is yet to be made available to the public by the ministry through its website”, CPR-Namati comments.
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Click HERE for Shailesh Nayak committee report

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