Published : 31 Aug 2009
The Coastal Zone Management (CZM) notification that has been allowed to “lapse” after protest from fisherfolk is yet another example of the Ministry of Environment and Forest’s doublespeak on environment issues and recent policy/legal reforms.
The CZM plan was evolved by a committee constituted in July 2004 under the leadership of Dr M S Swaminathan, popularly known as the father of the Green revolution. With each passing amendment, the effectiveness of CRZ 1991 was declining and the new committee reviewed this aspect. As expected, it came up with plans for a new regime, the CZM.
The official notification for implementing CZM was issued last year. Strangely, the recommendations made by the committee for safeguarding the coastal environment and the fisherfolk were not included in the notification.
The notification mentioned politically correct objectives - “sustainable development”, “sustainable livelihoods” and “conservation of ecologically and culturally significant coastal resources.” But from the first day itself, the notification drew brickbats. Besides, fishermen across the coastal States, who are the key stakeholders, rejected it, alleging that the notification was meant to promote a nexus between the land mafia, politicians and other vested interests.
Just like the CRZ 1991, CZM divided coastal regions into four categories: CZM-I, II, III and IV. CZM-I was designated as ecologically sensitive area, just like the CRZ-I.
A comparison between CZM and CRZ shows that in spite of 25 amendments, CRZ had some safeguards in place to shield the coastal inhabitants from the clutches of the “developmental beast”. The Swaminathan committee too observed that most of the fishermen organisations were satisfied with the CRZ.
As the plan to move on to the more “investment- friendly” CZM was opposed by crores of fishermen and coastal action groups across the country, the Ministry of Environment and Forests decided to constitute a new committee to look into the possibility of strengthening CRZ 1991.
The new panel too was headed by Dr Swaminathan. As anticipated, the committee suggested that the CZM draft notification be allowed to lapse on July 22 this year. The Centre agreed. The rest is history.