Shubham Kashyap Kalita*
India has brought its first Coastal Regulation Zone Notification in 1991(hereinafter to be referred as CRZ 1991) intending to govern the human and industrial activity in close vicinity to the coastal area and to further restrict certain activities that posed a threat to the fragile marine ecosystem in India. The notification was issued under the Environment Protection Act 1986. The primary objective of the CRZ 1991 regulatory framework was to allow those activities that are in close proximity to the coastal environment with specific conditions and obligations. It was the obligation of the state government to determine all the CRZ areas in the State Coastal Zone Management Plans (SCZMP) and seek approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (Hereinafter to be referred as MoEF). The CRZ 1991 met with some technical implementation deficits and multiple amendments have been made. But the amendments were made not to cover all those shortcomings rather intended to favor industrial interests over environmental standards.The major problem with the CRZ Notification back then was that the responsibility to implement the provisions of the Notification was on the state government which they blatantly failed to do.
In Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India, the petitioner brought the issue of non-implementation of the Notification for several years that paved the way for unregulated developmental activities causing environmental degradation. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that-
“Even though, laws have been passed for the protection of environment, the enforcement of the same has been tardy, to say the least. With the governmental authorities not showing any concern with the enforcement of the said Acts, and with the development taking place for personal gains at the expense of environment and with disregard of the mandatory provisions of law…”
Another landmark judgment in coastal regulation is S. Jagannath v. Union of India, the Court directed the central government to-
“constitute an authority under section 8(3) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and to confer on the said authority all the powers necessary to protect the ecologically fragile coastal areas, seashore, waterfront, and other coastal areas and specially to deal with the situation created by the shrimp culture industry in the coastal states/union territories.”
This decision has led to the creation of National Coastal Zone Authority (NCZMA) and State Coastal Zone Authorities (SCZMA) for the regulation and implementation of CRZ Notification.The CRZ Notification 2011 was brought about with the aim to empower the central government to regulate all activities in the 7500 km long coastal zone. It aimed at protecting and conserving India’s coastline with improved control, monitoring and enforcement. Under the 2011 Notification, CRZ has been divided into four categories as CRZ-I, CRZ-II, CRZ-II, and CRZ-IV. CRZ-I signifies those areas which are ecologically sensitive and where the geo-morphological species plays a major role in maintaining the marine ecology. CRZ-II is those areas that are close to the shoreline. It also creates a divide between the low tide line and the high tide line. CRZ-III represents the coastal zones in rural or in urban areas which neither falls under CRZ-I nor CRZ-II. CRZ-IV includes the area comprising of water from the Low Tide Line to 12 NM on the
With the rising concerns of climate change and its worst impact on the marine environment, the MoEF brought certain amendments to the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 which seems contrary to the ideals of UN Sustainable Development Goals.The new notification has diluted the existing provisions to such an extent that it poses a huge threat to the marine environment seaside. Since 1991, the notification has been amended 25 times before bringing in a new comprehensive regulation in 2011.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in 2014 set up a committee under Sailesh Nayak, the then secretary in the Ministry of Earth Science to look into the issues raised by concerned states. The committee submitted its reports in 2015 which raised various concerns among the environmentalists that it intends to further dilute the existing provisions under the 2011 Notification. Despite certain concerns being raised, the government came up with new CRZ rules in December 2018.The MoEF by diluting the norms of CRZ Notification has paved the way for developmental and real-estate activities along the coastal stretches which would pose serious implications for the marine environment.
Salient Features of the CRZ Notification 2018:
- The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) has demarcated the High Tide Line (HTL) which shall be surmised as a universal standard for all regulatory purposes.
- Projects falling under the category of CRZ-I and CRZ-IV shall seek clearance from the MoEF while the power of granting clearances to projects or activities falling under CRZ-II and CRZ-III have been conferred to state government.
- A ‘No Development Zone’ (NDZ) of 20 meters has been specified for all islands which are close to the mainland coast including all Backwater Islands.
- The CRZ-III areas have been subdivided into two categories i.e., CRZ-III A and CRZ-III B. CRZ-III A comprises of those rural areas which have a population density of 2161 per square kilometer as per 2011 census. An NDZ of 50 meters has been specified for such areas from the HTL while CRZ-III B areas comprise of those rural areas which have a population density below 2161 per square kilometer as per the 2011 census. The NDZ for such areas have been kept the same as 200m from the HTL.
- The 2018 Notification has mandated for de-freezing the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) which are earlier frozen down at 1991 Developmental Control Regulation (DCR) levels. It has further allowed the Floor Space Index (FSI) for construction projects.
- Tourism has been allowed on the beaches with temporary facilities such as toilet blocks, drinking water facilities or shacks, etc. These facilities have also been made permissible in the NDZ of the CRZ-III areas.
- The notification has allowed for temporary tourism facilities on the seaward site of any such National or State Highway passing through the NDZ in CRZ-III areas. It has also allowed for the establishment of hotels/resorts or any other tourism facilities on the landward side of such highways which are subject to the regulations of the respective states.
- The new notification has allowed for limestone mining in areas that are above the height of HTL, subject to the adherence of environmental safeguards to be recommended by reputed national institutes in the mining field.
- The Hazard line mapping has been stretched out of the purview of the CRZ regime and now shall be used only as a tool for disaster management and planning of adaptive and mitigation measures.
- Under the new notification, the CRZ limits on land along the tidal influenced water bodies has been reduced from 100 meters or the width of the creek, whichever is less, to 50 meters or the width of the creek, whichever is less.
- All defence and strategic projects have been granted exemption from the Regulation.
CRZ Notification 2018 contrary to SDG Goal 14: A tipping point
In September 2015, the United Nations took a historic decision by adopting a global agenda to achieve sustainable development by 2030. The agenda included 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) with a common pledge ‘leave no one behind’ seeks to bring a delicate balance between development and sustainability. Development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. Goal 14 of the SDGs aims at preserving and protecting the world marine ecosystem which is quintessential for our habitat. It sought to prevent all sorts of marine pollution; make sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems to reduce significant adverse effects in order to achieve healthy and productive ocean; it sought to minimize ocean acidification; enhance proper regulation of the coastal areas and marine resources by implementing international laws such as UNCLOS and other regulatory frameworks etc. The life below water is necessary to sustain the life above water.
In the past few years, the coastal regulation laws have been greatly modified and amended to pave the way for developmental and other economic activities in the coastal areas. The latest amended notification in 2018 is highly detrimental to the coastal environment. The 2011 Notification was brought with the objective of preservation and conservation of the coastal and marine ecosystem and ensuring sustainable development of the coastal communities. The reduction of High Tidal Zones from 500 meters to 50 meters will have severe adverse effects on the fishing communities.It would lead to severe weather conditions and will not have any buffer zones. The construction activities there would make the marine resources more vulnerable to pollution. The livelihood of fisher-folk will be at risk as fish would stop coming to the shore thereby causing severe economic distress to the fishing communities.
Further, there will be high dumping of untreated sewage into the ocean that might led to increasing nutrients in the coastal waters thereby making ecological disturbances affecting the coastal ecosystem. The NDZ was reduced from 200 meters as specified in the 2011 Notification to 50 meters under the new notification. It has divided the coastal zone as CRZ-I, CRZ-II, CRZ-III A, CRZ-III B by diverting coastal areas based on population density and thus further encroaching on the rights of the fishing communities.
The government has allowed the construction of tourism facilities under the new notification which was prohibited until then and has made the coastal areas more vulnerable to pollution. The CRZ Notification 2018 has severely undermined the fragile condition of the marine ecosystem and the rights of the coastal communities whose livelihood is associated with the coast. In recent times, we have seen an increasing number of coastal disasters such as thunderstorms, sea-level rise, tsunami, cyclone, etc which were devastating in nature, the 2018 notification will further deteriorate the health of the coastal ecosystem and would make prone to more such devastating coastal disasters. The government has further made a procedural change on 1st August 2017 by bringing a memorandum which says that the government is no longer required to consult the Ministry of Law and Justice at the time of framing a policy draft which is earlier required to be made and thus made its way easier to push its economic interest without being scrutinized. The government will consult the Ministry of Law and Justice only on the final policy draft. Therefore, the CRZ Notification 2018 has not gone through the process of review by the Ministry of Law and Justice and lacks legal scrutiny. Furthermore, the MoEFF has issued the notification before the submission of the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) by all the coastal states and union territories. The notification was released on 18 January 2019 with a provision stating that the provisions of the notification shall not come into force till the CZMPs are updated by the states according to the mandated provisions of CRZ Notification 2018.
While the 2018 Notification strives to boost the economy, it is likely to cause serious impediments to the marine environment and is highly unsustainable for the poor coastal communities. We have 10 years to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 that requires building a sustainable oceanic economy that will foster us with more resources and help us in regulating the climate and biodiversity. Our oceans have enormous capacity to solve all the major problems that the world is facing today. Climate change is hugely related to oceans and maintaining our oceans sustainably would help us in fighting climate change. It is firmly believed that our oceans can eradicate the long-lasting problems of hunger and poverty by generating more jobs and foods from the ocean. It will create a blue economy that will bring peace and stability in the world. It is high time that countries bring in policy changes that aim to achieve Goal 14 of the SDGs on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and life below water. Therefore, the CRZ Notification 2018 is contrary to Goal 14 of the SDGs and the government must bring in the necessary change before our marine ecology faces irretrievable damage. The government should bring in sustainable policies or comprehensive legislation instead of a bare notification for the coastal areas aiming to conserve the marine ecology and to protect the coastal communities.
About the Author
*Shubham Kashyap Kalita is a third year student at National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam.
Government of India, COASTAL REGULATION ZONE NOTIFICATION, 1991, (notified on 19th February 1991). [hereafter CRZ Notification 1991].
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, § 6(1) [ It provides that the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules in respect of all or any of the matters referred to in Sec. 3].
 Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India & Others, AIR 1996 SC 1446.
 S. Jagannath v Union of India and Others, AIR 1997 SC 811.
 See CRZ Notification, 2011. [Under Para 6, the SCZMA’s were directed to prepare Coastal Zone Management Plans in order to identify and classify the CRZ areas in the respective States].
 To ensure transparency in the working of the CZMA, it was issued that all violations, decisions, actions, cases etc., are to be made public on the respective SCZMA’s website. The MoEFF has issued directions under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, regarding identification of violations under CRZ Notification, 1991.
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Supra note 8.
 Ishan Kukreti, Coastal Regulation Zone: What development are we clearing our coasts for, DOWNTOEARTH, (Retrieved from – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/governance/coastal-regulation-zone-notification-what-development-are-we-clearing-our-coasts-for-63061). (Last visited on 24th August, 2020).
Supra note 2.
 Erna Solberg, Why the Ocean Holds the Key to Sustainable Development,WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM,(Retrieved from – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/the-oceans-hold-the-key-to-sustainable-development/). (Last visited on 10th July, 2020).