Coastal residents await Kerala coastal zone management authority revival

March 7, 2023
 Representative Image
Representative Image

KOCHI: Three years ago, four high-rises were pulled down in Kochi after the Supreme Court ruled in May 2019 that the buildings were constructed by violating coastal regulation zone (CRZ) rules. The order to demolish the buildings had led to a controversy as there was a lack of clarity on the precise coastal zone category in which these apartments came.

The 2011 CRZ notification was superseded by a new set of rules in January 2019 and under revised norms it might be perfectly legal to put up new buildings at the same spots because they reduced the requirement of a ‘no development’ zone by a factor of 10. What used to be 500m in a particular zone is now 50m; 200m has become 20m.

Environmentalists are concerned by this dilution of CRZ rules and it is the citizens of Kerala who are caught in this web of regulations that have varied application in urban and rural areas.

To address their concerns, Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) was brought in to create a coastal zone management plan (CZMP), with maps detailing which area fell in which CRZ category and the relevant restrictions.

Such a plan was prepared keeping in mind the 2019 notification and an expert committee headed by then additional chief secretary (environment) V Venu studied the plan and submitted a report to the government in Feb 2022. The panel’s recommendations were accepted but even after a year CZMP maps haven’t been published.

The term of KCZMA lapsed in October 2022 and it wasn’t reconstituted.

While people seek clarity on the subject, there is some help in the form of a book.

A member of the expert committee PB Sahasranaman, who is also a senior high court advocate and environmental specialist, has documented CRZ laws for years and the latest edition of his book “The Law Relating to Protection of Coastal Areas” will be published this month.

It has the full text of central laws related to coastal zones and wetlands from 1991 to the latest ones. It also includes all Kerala government rules and notifications on the subject and a compilation of all important state and SC judgments on coastal regulation.

(Anand Parthasarathy is a journalist who writes on technology and environment)

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