Coastal Ecosystem Norms

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    In News

    • Recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled a report in Parliament which contains the observations from an audit of Conservation of Coastal Ecosystems from 2015-20

    Background 

    • Environment Protection Act, 1986
      • The government has issued notifications under the Environment Protection Act 1986 to regulate activities along India’s coasts particularly regarding construction.
    • Different zones 
      • The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZ) 2019 implemented by the Ministry classifies the coastal area into different zones to manage infrastructure activities and regulate them.
    • Institutions responsible 
      • The three institutions responsible for the implementation of the CRZ are:
        • The National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) at the Centre, 
        • The State/Union Territory Coastal Zone Management Authorities (SCZMAs/UTCZMAs) in every coastal State and Union Territory 
        • The District Level Committees (DLCs) in every district that has a coastal stretch and where the CRZ notification is applicable.
    • Role
      • These bodies examine if CRZ clearances granted by the government are as per procedure.
      • If project developers once given the go-ahead are complying with conditions, and if the project development objectives under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programme (ICZMP) are successful.
    • Evaluation
      • They also evaluate the measures taken up by the government towards achieving the targets under Sustainable Development Goals.

    Role of CAG in this evaluation

    • Constitutional mandate 
      • The CAG has a constitutional mandate to investigate and report on publicly funded programmes.
    • Pre-audit studies
      • The CAG conducted pre-audit studies and found that there were large-scale CRZ violations in the coastal stretches.
      • Incidences of illegal construction activities (reducing coastal space) and effluent discharges from local bodies, industries and aquaculture farms had been reported. 

     

    Major findings of the audit report/ Major issues 

    • NCZMA still not a permanent body
      • The Environment Ministry hadn’t notified NCZMA as a permanent body and it was being reconstituted every few years.
    • Absence of Expert Appraisal Committees 
      • There were instances of the Expert Appraisal Committees not being present during project deliberations.
    • Strength
      • There were also instances of the members of the EAC being fewer than half of the total strength during the deliberations.
    • Non constitution of SCZMA 
      • The SCZMA had not been reconstituted in Karnataka and there was delayed reconstitution in the States of Goa, Odisha and West Bengal.
    • Lack of participation from locals
      • The DLCs of Tamil Nadu lacked participation from local traditional communities. 
      • In Andhra Pradesh, DLCs were not even established.
    • False approval
      • There were instances of projects being approved despite inadequacies in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports.
    • State specific problems: 
      • Tamil Nadu didn’t have a strategy in place to conserve the Gulf of Mannar Islands. 
      • In Goa, there was no system for monitoring coral reefs and no management plans to conserve turtle nesting sites. 
      • In Gujarat, instruments procured to study the physicochemical parameters of soil and water of the inertial area of the Gulf of Kutch weren’t used. 
      • Sea patrolling in Gahirmatha Sanctuary, in Kendrapara, Odisha did not happen. 
        • A research laboratory at Dangmal, Kendrapara District, Odisha constructed in 2016 has not been made functional till date. 
      • There was no website to disseminate the information related to the NCZMA.

    Way Forward

    • These reports are placed before the Standing Committees of Parliament which will select findings and recommendations that they judge to be the most critical to public interest and arrange hearings on them. 

    Coastal Regulation Zone

    • Under the section 3 of Environment Protection Act, 1986 of India, Coastal Regulation Zone notification was issued in 1991 for the first time.
    • The coastal land up to 500m from the High Tide Line (HTL) and a stage of 100m along banks of creeks, lagoons, estuaries, backwater and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations, is called the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
    • CRZ along the country has been placed in four categories:
      • CRZ-1: These are ecologically sensitive areas, these are essential in maintaining the ecosystem of the coast. They lie between low and high tide lines. Exploration of natural gas and extraction of salt are permitted.
      • CRZ-2: These areas are urban areas located in the coastal areas.
      • CRZ-3: Rural and urban localities which fall outside the 1 and 2. Only certain activities related to agriculture and even some public facilities are allowed in this zone.
      • CRZ-4: This lies in the aquatic area up to territorial limits. Fishing and allied activities are permitted in this zone. No Solid waste should be let off in this zone. 

    Source: TH