Fisherfolk Easily Get Trapped in CRZ Net
The greatest irony in the implementation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms lies in the fact that the marginalised section, the fishing community in particular, is trapped in the cobweb of laws which otherwise let the influential rich break through.
“A circular in 1997 seeks the strict implementation of the CRZ rules in the coastal and inland fishing villages. In many places the fishermen face difficulty in constructing buildings and houses,” said Charles George, president of the Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi (TUCI).
There are 221 coastal fishing villages and 121 inland fishing villages in the state. Charles pointed out that the fisherfolk of Alappad in Kollam district, Thrikkunnappuzha and parts of Chellanam in Ernakulam are put to untold miseries as their villages are sandwiched between the sea and backwaters.
Going by the rule, they can construct practically nothing there. “The CRZ norms stipulate a distance of 200 metres away from the sea and 100 metres from the backwaters. However, 500 metres from the sea is marked as no development area,” he said.
Environmentalists are disappointed over the lackadaisical attitude of the administrators in complying with the regulations.
“In the case of CRZ too, the poor and marginalised are at the receiving end while the rich gets away scot free. The term development is often used as a shield to cover up malpractice,” said N R Menon, Emeritus Professor, Cusat and co-chairman of Nansen Environmental Research Centre India. It is alleged that many violations are regularised eventually as sometimes the offenders escape by paying a certain amount as fine. “To my knowledge no one has been booked ever since the rules came into effect. The nexus between politicians and builders prevents even the implementation of court orders,” said environmentalist John Peruvanthanam.
The builders often blame ambiguity in laws when their projects get entangled in legal issues. “Earlier the law was unclear and many local self-governments could not clarify on the nature of the land. This had created a lot of confusion,” said Paul Raj, secretary of Kochi chapter of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India.
Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority head V N Rajasekharan Pillai had issued a circular on November 16, 2013 for implementing CRZ norms as per the notifications issued in 1991 and 2011.
Chairman of Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority V N Rajasekharan Pillai had stated that prior permission is needed for the construction or developmental activities in the areas under the CRZ, and warned of stringent action against erring officials.
The state government, through a notification on December 12, 2013, constituted a four-member district-level committee headed by a district magistrate in each coastal district. But the committees are more or less defunct. Various organisations have now started taking up cudgels against the CRZ regulations. The Varapuzha panchayat has requested the Central Government to relax norms for building houses up to 2000 sqft.
The agitation may gain momentum with the ‘Jana Jagarana Jatha’ initiated by the Kerala Regional Latin Catholic Council (KRLCC) at various places in the coastal belt across the state on February 2. This agitation is being planned on the lines of the protests against the implementation of the report of Kasturirangan panel, led by the Syro-Malabar Church.
The CRZ regulations were one of the major issues discussed at the recently-concluded KRLCC conference. The Church representatives had sought a relaxation for constructing houses only.
According to Ebenzer Chullikkad, a member of the Church legal cell, it need an exception for houses with an area up to only 2000 sqft. “We do not want any relaxation for commercial buildings,” he said.
(to be continued)