After the BJP-led central government relaxed the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, the move has boomeranged on the state government. Fishermen community across Mumbai has warned to come on streets and protest if the state government does not back down. The modification of the plan will only help the real estate developers.
Mumbai’s coastal zone is already compromised. Developmental activities along the city’s shoreline were one of the main reasons for coastal erosion. Construction of structures along the coast that project into the sea reduces the natural sedimentation or beach rejuvenation. This might be one of the main factors for an increase in erosion along Mumbai’s coast. However, other instances like the rise in the sea level overtime for a prolonged period also can erode a beach severely. Erosion takes place when a range of human-based activities disturbs the unembroidered sediment transport or beach building process.
The most eroded coastline in the metropolis is Dadar-Shivaji Park beach. After the construction of Bandra-Worli Sea Link, the natural rejuvenation of the beach with fresh sand has stopped. The area towards Prabhadevi has become completely rocky while a portion of Chaityabhoomi’s left side is also facing the same threat.
Earlier, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis maintained that the government didn’t receive any redevelopment proposal for Mumbai’s coastal areas. The fishermen community has already started to criticise the CRZ move. The easing of CRZ norms for construction will destroy coast and its natural resources in the city including marine fish resources. There should be no change in the prevalent CRZ norms without holding consultations with the community. In 2008, the government (the UPA regime) had unilaterally tried to replace the CRZ notification. They were forced to later rescind the measure following countrywide protests by the community. Four years after coming to power, BJP is repeating the same mistakes committed by the UPA government. Even the apex body of fishermen community, National Fishworkers Forum, has raised objections on these norms. In Mumbai, there are around about 38 koliwadas, which are home to more than 50,000 people. But this new CRZ norms will endanger the homes and therefore, the entire fishermen community has to come together to oppose the same.
The new CRZ norms are being referred to as Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone, which has few tweaks that enraged the fishermen community. Sailesh Nayak Committee has recommended the changes. The draft norms propose to allow public amenities like coastal roads and sewage treatment plants. According to the 2011 CRZ notification, there is no new construction allowed in this zone. The new draft also proposes to limit the CRZ area to only 500 metres from the high-tide line (HTL) excluding hazard line (areas that are prone to coastal calamities and vulnerabilities). According to the CRZ-1 norms, ‘ecologically sensitive areas are essential in maintaining the ecosystem of the coast. They lie between low and high tide line. Exploration of natural gas and extraction of salt are permitted’.
The 2011 CRZ notification had frozen the Floor Space Index (FSI), but the new draft on the recommendations of the Maharashtra state government will ease these norms and allow greater FSI in CRZ-II areas. The 2011 CRZ norms mandated that slum redevelopment schemes should be done with a 51 per cent stake of the state government. The new draft will do away with that condition and allow private builders to have the full stake of construction in coastal areas. The unauthorised structures are not allowed to be constructed in this zone. The ministry has proposed to relax the existing No-Development Zone (NDZ) to 50 metres from the high-tide line (HTL), from the earlier norm of 0-200 metres construction of homes and other structures are prohibited in the NDZ. This relaxation will allow the construction of houses and temporary tourist facilities beyond the 50 m mark. The CRZ-3 norms say ‘the rural and urban localities fall outside the 1 and 2. Only certain activities related to agriculture even some public facilities are allowed in this zone’. On the other hand, CRZ-4 mentions ‘the zone lies in aquatic area up to territorial limits. Fishing and allied activities are permitted in this zone’.
The draft notification also allows the setting up of fish-processing units, makes allowance for facilities meant for patrolling and vigilance activities of coastal or marine police, and removes the necessity of obtaining environmental clearances for constructing housing units, and related infrastructure, for the local fishermen community. However, fishermen don’t just need housing, but sustainable fishing practices and a clean sea. If the water is polluted, there will be no fish for them to catch. The National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) also expressed fear that the move would strengthen the private companies, which had invested heavily into tourism hotspots while ignoring the existing CRZ notification. The Koli fishing communities in Mumbai stand to lose livelihood opportunities once the notification comes into force. Their land will be ceded and catch will be affected.
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