Posts Tagged 'M.S. Swaminathan'

Comments on Coastal Management Zone Draft Notification due 30 June 2008

On 1 May 2008, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) released the Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) draft notification with 60 days (until 30 June) for comments.  The CMZ is to replace the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) that has been in effect since 1991for the 8,000 kilometres of coast in India.

The pdf of the CMZ draft notification can be downloaded below or from the MoEF site.

Draft CMZ released 1 May 2008

V. Vivekanandan, advisor to the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), has elucidated the objections of the fishing communities to the CMZ.  The major points are listed below.  The full draft of Vivekanandan’s analysis can be downloaded from the link below.

Comments on CMZ Draft Notification by V. Vivekanandan, SIFFS

1. Conceptually and fundamentally different: Fundamentally, the CMZ and CRZ have different motivations. The first obvious difference is the move away from “regulation” to “management”. While one could argue that management includes regulation, it is more amenable to abuse and nothing is really sacrosanct. However there is an even more fundamental difference. CRZ was essentially meant to protect the coast from environmental degradation while recognising that some provision had to be given for use of the coast for coastal and fishing communities and for activities that required foreshore access. The CMZ is not as much about protecting the coast as about protecting the human beings and their assets from the fury of the sea. The set back lines under CRZ (200 m and 500 m) were intended to create a buffer zone to regulate activities close to shoreline for minimising the impact of shore based activities in degrading the coastal ecosystems and to reserve a zone close to the shoreline for fishery and other activities which require shorefront facilities. However the set back line under the CMZ regime is only a hazard line. Hence, the CMZ cannot replace the CRZ if we still believe in coastal protection on environmental grounds.

2. Dilution of coastal protection rules: Not surprisingly, in view of the previous point, the CMZ systematically goes about diluting the rules that protect the coastal environment under the present CRZ regime. The elimination of the no-development zone and bringing even “ecologically sensitive areas” under an “integrated coastal zone management plan” makes a mockery of the concept of coastal protection. CMZ I has none of the sanctity of CRZ I and is a serious threat to eco-systems that are already vulnerable. The expansion of the coastal areas under CMZ II (the equivalent of CRZ II) to include coastal panchayats with higher density of population once again is an attempt to dilute the protection afforded to coastal ecosystems under CRZ.

3. Set back linean unknown entity: While the 200m and 500m set back lines used by the CRZ regime are certainly arbitrary, they have the advantage of being simple and easy for all to understand. The new set back line proposed in the CMZ regime is an unknown entity. Till it is actually drawn, no one can understand its implications. Under the name of “scientific objectivity” we are handing over what should be societal decisions (taken by coastal people, administrators and political leaders with scientific inputs) to scientists and scientific institutions with no competence or expertise to find a balance between conflicting requirements: short term vs. long term, safety vs. livelihood needs, environmental vs. economic, etc. It is foolhardy to make such a regulation before even mapping one stretch of the coast and demonstrating the use of the set-back line to the coastal population and other stakeholders. It will not come as a surprise, if the set back line, once it is drawn, will throw up nasty surprises and prove to be a set back to the MoEF itself. It is also to be noted that the use of two set back lines (200 m and 500 m) under the CRZ regime is more pragmatic and recognises that one needs a graded response to coastal protection while the CMZ seems to depend entirely on one magic line that solves all problems.

4. Integrated coastal zone management plan—a coastal utopia? Like the set back line, India has no previous experience with integrated coastal zone planning. It is a shame that we have not even implemented one genuine ICZMP in India while many other countries have been working on this concept for many years and with limited success. Given the complexities and pitfalls, it is incredible that MoEF believes that India can develop in a short period ICZMPs for a significant part of the 8000 km coast without even a successful pilot over 80 km. Some administrators or scientists or politicians drawing up plans do not constitute an ICZMP. It requires long drawn out processes to address conflicting interests in the use of coastal resources as well as the difficult task of coordinating the plethora of Govt departments and agencies that have a connection with the coast. Even the GOI has not been able to bring about any coordination between its own ministries concerned with the coast. The importance of participatory processes for ICZM needs to be understood. India is a signatory to various international instruments like the Convention on Bio-diversity that require us to undertake integrated coastal zone planning in a participatory manner and protecting the interest of local communities. So, while it is not our contention that coastal zone planning is irrelevant or impossible, it requires a more modest beginning and it is not something that one can make the basis of the current regulation for an entire coast. If the MoEF is serious about ICZMPs there is nothing that prevents it from getting into it without tampering with the existing CRZ regulations.

5. Ignoring the rights of fishing communities: If the latest CMZ draft seems to make some concessions to the fishing community, it is only after a huge campaign across the coast that indicated the disenchantment of the community. The fact that the fishing communities were not consulted by the Swaminathan Committee[1] and there has not been any significant or meaningful consultation since then by the MoEF, raises serious doubts about the Ministry’s intention and commitment to integrated coastal zone planning. How can a five-million strong community that lives in 3200 coastal hamlets (CMFRI Census 2005) and occupying at least 50% of the coast line of the mainland for its livelihood be ignored in a coastal zone planning scenario? Housing and livelihood needs of the fisherfolk (admittedly one of the most vulnerable sections of our population) have not been addressed satisfactorily till date. A huge developmental effort is required to address this. The CMZ concept (as understood from the Swaminathan committee and the various draft notifications) makes no attempt to tackle this. Fishermen housing and habitat cannot be too far from the sea and whatever be the safety considerations, the sea and the fishermen cannot be separated. While it is not our case that fishermen should be allowed to make indiscriminate use of the coastal space, a proper provisioning for the development of the fishing community needs to be made and this can only be in the coastal space. The CMZ notification is basically a discriminatory document that allows a number of new stakeholders to enter the coast while ignoring the claims of those who have been traditionally linked to the sea and have been the real owners and protectors of the coast. Proper coastal management in India requires that we find a balance between environmental protection, the use of the coast by its traditional inhabitants and the entry of new users of the coastal space and resources. This balance is absent in the CMZ regime. It is biased in favour of the new users of the coastal space and resources and against the interests of the traditional users. The traditional users are at best tolerated but not given much scope for improving their lot. Coastal development is not conceived as something for the benefit of those living on the coast, but as a tool for opening up the coast to others and for the development of industries and big business. Fishing communities are not seeking concessions but demanding their rights!

6. Toothless tiger and cringing dragon: The CRZ regime has failed to protect the coast as visualised due to absence of any serious enforcement. The State Coastal Zone Management Authority is completely ineffective and a toothless tiger. The MoEF, despite all its powers, has preferred to be a dragon that cringes before the powerful moneyed interests and has allowed anarchic development to flourish on the coast. There is nothing in the CMZ notification that gives any hope that enforcement issues will be addressed. There is no provision for strengthening the enforcement or powers for taking strong punitive action. In fact, the switch to CMZ is seen as an attempt to help CRZ violators go scot-free.

7. Dubious process and poor track record: The road to the current CMZ notification is paved with many attempts by the MoEF to dilute the CRZ regime (through a series of amendments) with stiff resistance from environmental groups, fishing communities and other civil society groups. It is but natural that the latest offering of the Ministry is viewed with deep suspicion and seen as another attempt to scuttle a very essential regulation for the benefit of various business interests. The failure to consult the fishing communities during the Swaminathan committee process and the belated and poorly organised fishermen consultation in Bombay last year has alienated the community and it is not ready to take at face value any new notification issued by the MoEF. That the CMZ notification does not specify what will be done to punish those who have violated the CRZ till date, once the CMZ comes into vogue, is seen as yet another indicator of the real intentions of the Ministry.

[1] The Chairman Dr.M.S.Swaminathan is on record suggesting the invitation of fishermen representatives for the meetings but this was not followed up by MoEF.

All those wishing to comment on the CMZ draft notification, please do so before 30 June 2008.  BY post to: Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodi Road, New Delhi – 110003 or electronically to: