CHENNAI: Ignoring the concerns raised by fisherfolk and environmentalists, the Tamil Nadu government is going ahead with the ‘incomplete’ draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) and has announced the dates for public hearing in 12 out of 13 coastal districts of Tamil Nadu.
There has been widespread condemnation across the State ever since the Department of Environment published the draft plan on February 19 for public comments. As per annexure-1 of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011, which lists out the guidelines and preparation of CZMPs, hazard mapping should clearly demarcate the land use plan of the area and existing authorised developments on the seaward side.
Besides, while preparing the CZMPs under CRZ notification, 2011, the CZMPs that have been approved under the CRZ Notification, 1991, shall be compared. A justification should be provided by the Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) concerned in case the CZMPs prepared under the CRZ notification, 2011, varies with respect to the approved CZMP prepared under CRZ notification, 1991. But none of these were incorporated, which defeats the very purpose of calling for public consultation, alleges Cuddalore-based environmental activist T Arul Selvam.
Fishermen leader Sahaya Alex from Kanniyakumari says it appears that incomplete and non-compliant documents have been uploaded as draft CZMP for comments, prompted by an order of the Chairperson of National Green Tribunal (NGT) (Principal Bench) in November 2017 directing States to submit complete and compliant draft CZMPs for Union Environment Ministry’s approval by April 30, failing which action will be taken against erring officials.
He says the State government cannot conduct public hearings based on incomplete maps. The Southern Bench of NGT in September 2015 said that public hearings cannot be conducted in a manner contrary to CRZ Notification, 2011, and based on incomplete maps. It set aside public hearings conducted in Kanniyakumari, Ramanathapuram, Thoothukudi, Pudukkottai and Tirunelveli and asked Tamil Nadu State Coastal Management Authority to prepare CZMPs afresh.
Jesu Rathnam of Coastal Action Network has moved the Madras High Court challenging the draft plan, but is yet to be heard. Some blatant violations are observed in Ramanathapuram, Kanniyakumari, Tiruvallur, Nagapattinam, Chennai and Cuddalore districts. In Chennai, a large extent of coastline upto Uthandi on East Coast Road has been changed from CRZ III to CRZ II, essentially removing the ‘no-development zone’ protection and freeing it for development.
However, the Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority has justified the plan. It took up the plan for discussion in its meeting held on March 16 (minutes available with Express).
“Coastal district collectors have been requested to conduct the public hearings. Around 20 copies of 115 CZMP maps in the scale of 1:25,000 have been distributed to District Environmental Engineers of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for display to public, along with executive summary both in Tamil and English. The finalisation of CZMPs should be done duly, considering all the suggestions, views of stakeholders as per the CRZ Notification 2011 and with the approval of Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority and Tamil Nadu government. Subsequently, the CZMP will be sent to Centre for approval,” the minutes of the meeting read.
Further, on approval of 1:25,000 scale CZMP by the Centre, action will be taken to prepare the 1:5,000 cadastral scale maps for the use of local bodies for details such as housing schemes and fish drying yards.
The Southern Bench of NGT in September 2015 had said that public hearings cannot be conducted in a manner contrary to CRZ Notification, 2011, and based on incomplete maps