Environment ministry asks state units to get cracking on coastal violations

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) of government of India has asked state level agencies to report all violations of the coastal buffer zone rules within four months and initiate action in another four.

The directive has been issued soon after the coastal management authorities got new powers under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification of 2011 issued earlier this month.

Under the new rules, the government agencies — both at the central level and the state coastal regulatory authorities — will have to be more active in detecting violations. Under the 1991 rules, the powers and responsibilities of the agencies were more limited, according to Jairam Ramesh, the minister for environment and forests.

The new directive, however, is for the detection of violations under the old law as many such violations will not longer be counted as such under the revamped norms. Jairam Ramesh had, at the time of issuing the new rules, said that all violations will be considered according to the rules that prevailed at the time of commission of such a violation.

In other words, buildings constructed in violation of norms before January 2011 will have to be demolished, even if they can be rebuilt according to current rules once they are torn down.

A recent satellite-based study had found more than 5,000 cases of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) violations in the tiny state of Goa alone. The CRZ rules envisage a ‘no development’ zone near the shoreline, so as to protect the coast. Depending on whether a sea-coast is considered as ‘developed’ or rural, rules permit different degrees of freedom to construct. In rural areas, for example, new concrete buildings and industries may not be constructed within the 500-metre buffer zone, according to the 1991 rules.

However, the rules have been broken in many states, especially in Goa and Kerala where a substantial part of the population live near the coast. While only boat sheds and other temporary and traditional structures are allowed on the sea-shore, tourism has ensured the creation of many sea-side concrete buildings.

The 2011 rules, however, have relaxed many of the norms, including cutting down the no development zone in Kerala to just 100 metres. The new rules also allow reconstruction and redevelopment of residential buildings within the 500 metre zone, which is expected to bring relief to areas like Goa.