The National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) has unanimously rejected the draft coastal zone regulation notification, demanded its withdrawal and decided to launch a nationwide agitation to demand the right to life and livelihood of the fishing community and for the protection of the coastal environment. The draft notification seeks to regularize all the amendments to the 1991 notification which has resulted in diluting the protection regime of the notification. NFF has therefore asserted that the 2010 notification will fail to protect the environment.A press release by NFF chairperson Matanhy Saldanha said that the decision was taken at the NFF executive committee meeting held at Chennai on September 25, 2010.
Saldanha stated that the draft notification, instead of seeking to protect the environment, is a tool to destroy the coastal ecology as it seeks to throw open the coastal areas of the country for commercial exploitation.
The agitation will start from October 15, 2010 in different parts of India with special emphasis on the coastal states. October 29 will be observed as an all-India protest day with different kinds of agitations held in state capitals and district headquarters. But first the NFF will submit a point-by-point critique of the draft notification to the ministry for environment and forests shortly.
Saldanha said that the draft notification has many lacunae. Activities that should have been banned along the coastland to protect the environment have actually been included in the list of permissible activities. For example, the draft notification provides for setting up SEZ in the coastland.
Hazardous and heavy polluting industries like thermal plants and nuclear plants are recommended in the coastland under the draft notification even though such plants would be detrimental to the waters and marine life. “What is most shocking is the fact that the draft notification provides for housing colonies in land admeasuring over 20,000 sq m thereby indicating that the government proposes to throw open the coastline for setting up new villages which will not only displace the traditional occupiers of the land but also create a demographic dichotomy that will be disastrous for the cultural and ecological fabric of the coastland,” Saldanha said.
He also expressed concern over the draft notification’s nod to the construction of ports with a special rapid EIA provision made for them. “This is truly cause for concern as the government proposes to set up more than 300 private ports in the country and without a proper study, these ports will well end up destroying the beaches in India and leave it only with wharves, jetties and ports,” Saldanha said.
The NFF chairman wondered what space would be left for the fishermen and other traditional communities living on the coasts for centuries, if ports, nuclear and thermal plants, SEZ and even housing colonies areset up.
Besides, the draft notification seeks to regularize all the amendments to the 1991 notification which has resulted in diluting the protection regime of the notification. NFF has therefore asserted that the 2010 notification will fail to protect the environment.
NFF described the so-called special dispensation given to certain geographical areas as “a joke”. In the case of Goa, for example, under the special consideration, coastal communities are supposed to be permitted to construct jetties, ice plants, etc which are necessary for their trade. But these facilities are available for all fishermen along the Indian coast and there is nothing special offered to Goa fishing community, the NFF noted. More significantly, while the notification takes note of the unique khazan lands in Goa, it merely pays lip service to protection of these lands by stating that no development shall be allowed on them. Instead, these lands could be termed as inter-tidal zones and brought under CRZ-1 where no development of any kind is permitted, NFF observed.