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The coast is closer now

The coast is closer now

The Coastal Regulation Zone’s latest amendment is mired in controversy. On one hand, many sections of the industry, especially the builder lobby are terming it progressive. On the other, it may impact the fishing and tourism industry. Payal Khurana has an update on a regulation that has seen changes 25 times in its 20-year tenure.

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 1991 was set up under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and sought to protect and regulate the use of the land within 500 m of the coast. It classifies the coastal stretch of the country into CRZ-I (ecologically sensitive areas), CRZ-II (built up municipal areas), CRZ-III (rural areas) and CRZ-IV (islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar).

The latest amendment is kicking up a storm, as fishermen and environmental groups strongly believe that it would open up beaches (critical to fisher livelihoods) to intense commercialisation, infrastructure development, and consequent displacement of traditional communities, besides causing irreversible environmental damage.

Mumbai and the CRZ

Almost 45 per cent or 206 sq km of land in Mumbai is under CRZ. With Mumbai and Navi Mumbai being given special consideration, the metro will see a lot happening. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced that nearly six lakh residents of 146 slums and 620 dilapidated buildings, mostly in south and central Mumbai, would be able to redevelop their houses. However, this renovation for slums could only be effected through companies or special project vehicles in which the Maharashtra government held a 51 per cent share. In a bid to make all dealings transparent, all information on this would be available under the Right of Information Act (RTI). An important change is that the floor-space index (FSI), which is the ratio between the built-up area allowed and the plot area available, in the CRZ areas has changed to 2.5 times from only 1.33 times. This will benefit the builders’ lobby and Ramesh feels it will solve Mumbai’s housing problems. However, environmentalists have been opposing this move strongly.

The second major boost that Mumbai’s infrastructure gets due to the CRZ amendment is that the city’s network of roads will expand. The restriction on construction of roads in CRZ-1 land, which is foreshore land on the seaward side of any existing building, has now been lifted. About 69 arterial roads in the eastern and western suburbs have already been identified for development, which will ease the traffic pressure by improving connectivity. They are spread across nearly seven lakh sq m of mangrove land, and will be built on stilts to preserve the coast’s sensitive ecology.

The BMC will now be able to build key roads like the Borivli-Gorai road, extend Borivli’s LT Road that opens out at Gorai and develop 15 DP roads in Dahisar. Other projects that are in the offing are a 120 foot link along Juhu Tara Road that will open out at JP Road in Versova, a relief road running along Link Road at Malad, stilt-mounted roads connecting Versova Jetty to Erangal, a missing link leading to the Airoli-Mulund Link Road and a 120 foot road in Wadala. The second phase of the Sea Link will also get a boost.

The latest amendments

The important policy changes are:

• While the original law restricted itself to land, the new amendment has included the sea area up to 12 nautical miles and the water area of ‘tidal influenced water bodies’ in its jurisdiction, with a view to maintain its functional integrity and biodiversity.
• A hazard mapping system based on tides, waves, sea level rise and shoreline change is included. Provisions will be made to safeguard the infrastructure and local habitations in vulnerable zones. This means areas susceptible to cyclones and other such natural calamities will get added security.
• The monitoring of untreated waste discharge, effluents and sewage including solid waste, along with a budget to deal with the pollution will be worked upon.
• Special consideration will be provided to certain areas like Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, Kerala, Sunderbans and Goa. Mumbai and Navi Mumbai are among the most thickly populated coastal areas, putting tremendous pressure on the coastline. A major population lives in slums abutting the coastal stretches—about 136 slums areas exist within 500 m from the coast. Mumbai and Navi Mumbai require a special dispensation. The new CRZ shall provide for redevelopment of specified buildings in some specified areas.
• In some of the urban areas classified as CRZ-II, the amendments will provide for construction of roads on stilts over the mangroves that would not affect the growth of the mangroves and the tidal flow as well.
• Keeping in view the difficulties faced by fishing communities, basic facilities such as fish drying yards, auction halls, net mending yards, traditional boat building yards, ice crushing units, fish curing facilities, etc, shall be provided in the No-Development Zone of CRZ-III areas.

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