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Protesting across India, fisherfolk's apex body seeks rejection of Central govt's draft coastal zone notification

By Our Representative
National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), the apex body of fisherfolk across India, has rejected the draft Coastal Zone Regulation Notification 2018 (CRZ 18), released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on April 18, even as holding National Day of Protest on June 11 against it by representing before collectors of of the country's coastal districts under the banner “Restore our coastline, secure our livelihoods”.
The representation said, the draft "scales back the environmental safeguards for the coastlines, and stands in violation of Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986", which states that the Central government shall "take all such measures that it deems to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution”.
In a statement, NFF said, the current CRZ, 2011 notification "mandates that setback zones be demarcated, livelihoods be protected and unchecked development curtailed", yet the draft CRZ 18 "overturns these by removing safeguards, facilitating development, in turn paving the way for Sagarmala programme.
Objecting to MoEFCC has publishing the draft CRZ 18 only in English, which allegedly only displays "its cynicism towards the fishing communities at large", NFF chairperson Narendra Patil said, “We are the largest primary non-consumptive stakeholders and natural custodians of the coastal natural resources. The fishworkers of India will not remain silent on a document that has been prepared without our consultation.”
NFF demanded that the Government of India rescind the draft CRZ 18 and take immediate steps towards enactment of a comprehensive Coastal Regulation Zone Act, as promised by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in January 2011.
It said, the Act must be "prepared through open and appropriate consultation with the coastal fishing communities and concerned citizens and should be based on sound scientific, environmental and social principles with the aim to protect both coastal natural resources and sustainable livelihood practices dependent on those resources."
Also demanding that the Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) under the CRZ 2011 be implemented to include the "demarcation of lines, zones, plans and the long-term housing needs of coastal fishing communities in a transparent and accountable way", NFF General Secretary T Peter said, “Before any new regulations are introduced, the state must implement the CRZ 1991 and the CRZ 2011, and ensure that all violations are dealt with."

Gujarat consultation

Meanwhile, a public consultation in Gujarat by NGOs Centre for Social (CSJ) and Paryavaran Mitra, Ahmedabad, and a fish-workers' organization, Darya nu Dayro, with the participation of 30 representatives, also called for the rejection of the draft CRZ 18, demanding that the current CRZ, 2011 notification be "restored" for the preservation of coastal ecology and promotion of economic activity of the local people.
Seeking to make public the Shailesh Nayak Committee report, based on which the draft CRZ 18 is said to have been jotted down, the consultation demanded "carrying out mapping settlements and creating a reserve zone for coastal communities", adding, "Buffer zone limit around all mangroves should be restored to 500 metres as per the CRZ Notification of 1991 to ensure their protection".
Insisting that the areas which are Critically Vulnerable Coastal (CVC) areas should be specifically mentioned as annexure in the draft notification, the consultation said, "Untreated industrial and domestic effluents should not be disposed of in coastal waters and infrastructure for the same should be established in a time bound manner."
Also demanding that hazard line be "restored to carry out any development activity along the coastal belt", it said, the role of Gram Sabhas and Gram Panchayats in case of CRZ III areas, as also self-governing town authorities in urban areas, should also be taken into account.
Especially taking objection to the draft CRZ 18's provision which has reduced the earlier limit buffer zone for allowing “nature trails and eco-tourism activities” in CRZ-1 from 100 metres to 50 metres, the consultation said, this would adversely affect "mangroves, coral reefs and sand dunes."

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