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Indian Environment And Forest Ministry To Consult Fishing Communities Before Changing Coastal Regulations Controversial Draft CMZ Notification To Lapse

3 July 2009

In a significant development, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Indian Minister for Environment and Forests, has confirmed that no change will be undertaken in India’s Coastal Regulation Notification without first consulting fishing and other communities along India’s coastline. He made this commitment to a delegation of representatives from various fishing communities coordinated by the National Fishworkers Forum and Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (Kerala Independent Fishworkers Federation) when they met him in Delhi on 02 July.

In particular, Mr. Ramesh has confirmed that the controversial Draft Coastal Zone Management Notification, largely based on the controversial report of Agricultural Scientist Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, would be allowed to lapse on 22 July 2009. The Minister also made it very clear that the existing Coastal Regulation Zone would continue pending discussion on its reforms. It was also confirmed that the recommendations of the PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT & FORESTS, TWO HUNDRED AND SECOND REPORT ON COASTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAMMES submitted on 20 March 2009 would be followed.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh has also confirmed that within the next two months 5 consultations would be held to discuss areas of improvement of the existing CRZ Notification. These consultations would be held at Bhubaneswar, Kerala, Chennai, Goa and Mumbai and coordinated by the Ministry in collaboration with National Fishworkers Forum. Acceding to the demand of the fishing communities, Mr. Ramesh has confirmed that the reform process would not interfere with the traditional and customary rights of fishing communities. In fact, precautionary measures would be taken to ensure the protection of traditional fisher people, their livelihoods and the coast.

Mr. T. Peter of KSMTF has in a letter to Mr. Ramesh stated the following:

“On behalf of the Fishing community, I would like to thank you for meeting with the fishworkers delegation yesterday (2 July 2009). The points you made on the CMZ notification being lapsed, beginning wide ranging consultations with the fishing community and recognising our customary rights is well appreciated. We look forward to working with you and your ministry to take these issues forward.”

It may be recalled that widespread protests have greeted the proposal to reform India’s coastal regulations by introducing the highly controversial CMZ Notification. Fishing communities in particular, and coastal communities in general, have protested the need for such amendments stating that the current mess in protecting our coastline is largely a result of the weak implementation by the Centre and States of the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification – 1991, as also its repeated dilutions.

In recent years, yielding to pressures from investor and industrial lobbies for quick and easy clearances for a variety of urban, infrastructure and coastline developments that adversely affected coastal environments and communities, the draft CZM Notification was introduced consequent to recommendations by the Swaminathan Committee. Fishing communities across the country have rejected both the Committee’s findings, process by which it was formulated and also the need for amending the CRZ Notification. In fact, there has been a growing demand to strictly move against violations per the CRZ Notification.

A widely endorsed appeal initiated in this regard by KSMTF was submitted to Mr. Jairam Ramesh. Even as the appeal was being circulated for endorsements, Mr. Ramesh intervened to clarify his intentions for reforms as follows:

“——– Original Message ——–

Subject: CRZ

Date: Wed, 1 Jul 2009 11:49:50 +0530

From: Jairam Ramesh

To: [email protected]

On CRZ-91, what we are doing is the following.

  1. For Lakshadweep and Andamans we are notifying a separate IPZ (Island Protection Zone) that combines CRZ-91 and the scientific principles of CMZ-2008 Notification.
  2. We are looking at critical vulnerable areas (like Sunderbans, etc) separately.
  3. For the rest, we are allowing CMZ-2008 Notification to lapse, using CRZ-91 as a framework and seeing where changes have to be made keeping in mind the scientific principles related to sustainable development contained in CMZ-2008 Notification. The protection of the interests of fishermen and their families will be paramount in this exercise–not of builders, et al.
  4. CRZ-91 needs a change since it has already been amended 25 times showing how discretionary it has become. We also need to management imperatives of a post-tsunami world.”

The appeal along with a note explaining the background to this issue is enclosed.

Leo F. Saldanha, Bhargavi S. Rao

Environment Support Group ®
1572, 36th Cross, 100 Feet Ring Road, Banashankari II Stage, Bangalore 560070
Tel: 91-80-26713559/26713560/26713561 Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316
Email: [email protected] or [email protected] Web: www.esgindia.org

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