A draft notification that effectively dilutes the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011 with likely environmental consequences is under official consideration, but details are sparse because the government is being “secretive”, say activists.

The draft Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone notification, which has been ready since March, was accessed by Meenakshi Kapoor of the Centre for Policy Research through a Right to Information (RTI) application. However, none of the 10 annexures with details of the new clauses were released by the government, giving activists only a skeletal view of the proposed changes.

In spirit, however, the draft draws on the Shailesh Nayak Committee report on coastal regulations, which was kept under wraps by the NDA Government for more than 18 months.

Blow to fishing communities

Its proposals — such as lifting the ban on reclamation of land for commercial and entertainment purposes and opening up ecologically sensitive coastal areas for tourism — are expected to benefit real estate and tourism industries, but fishing communities will likely be affected adversely.

Kapoor said, “We still don’t know details such as how the high tide line is being drawn because the annexures and details have not been released. They are very secretive and opaque .”

The draft proposes several changes — such as limiting CRZ to 500 metres from the high tide line (earlier, the area between 500 metre line till the hazard line was considered CRZ); permits construction of roads and ecotourism projects in CRZ 1 (ecologically sensitive area), which were earlier prohibited; and easing laws for construction activity in other CRZ zones.

Strikingly, it also proposes to shorten the ‘no development zone’ in areas that are relatively undisturbed to just 50 metres from the high tide line, whereas earlier the limit was drawn at 200 metres. Additionally, development even in this abridged ‘no development zone’ can continue in the form of “temporary tourism facilities”, which were earlier prohibited.

States for dilution of rules

The proposed dilutions fall in favour of States such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala, which had made submissions to dilute the provisions of the CRZ notification, CPR said.

The environmental implications of these proposals hinge on how the new high tide line is drawn. The government, however, has declined to reveal the new line, claiming it would hurt the country’s scientific and economic interests.

The Ministry has kept proposed changes to environmental laws under wraps, although it was pulled up by the Central Information Commission earlier for not making the Shailesh Nayak Committee report public and for keeping details of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee meetings from the public domain.

Until June last year, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change had refused to reveal details of the Shailesh Nayak Committee report, even under RTI, on the grounds that the government had not approved it.

Yet, the report formed the basis of a slew of changes in the laws governing coastal regions over the last two years; even the changes proposed in the draft Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone notification appear to have been taken directly from that report.