Udupi officials in dock for CRZ violations

The State department of Environment has proposed to initiate criminal proceedings against erring officials in the coastal district of Udupi, the first such action since the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification under the Environment Protection Act (EPA) came into effect in Karnataka in 1991.

The office of the Regional Director, Environment in Udupi district has proposed that the government invoke Section 17 of the EP Act against the local authorities for the continued violations caused along the sea and river coastline of the district in the last decade.

So far, names of four authorities “responsible for violations” – Taluk Executive Officer, Udupi and Panchayat Development Officers of Thrase, Bijady and Maravanthe — have been sent across to the government, said Balachandra T, deputy conservator of forests and regional director, Enrivornment, in Udupi.

120 cases booked

Balachandra said that between 2002 and 2012, around 120 cases had been booked in the district for violation of CRZ rules, and despite repeated warnings and awareness campaigns, illegal constructions kept mushrooming in the restricted zones.

“The violations have continued only because of the erring authorities. There are many instances wherein the local authorities, including tahsildars and municipal commissioners, are seen indulging in conversion cases or in grant of illegal licences. “Till date, criminal proceedings were initiated only against the violators under Section 15 of the EPA. But nothing was ever said against the authorities,” he said.

Balachandra said that a majority of violations included construction of big resorts, guest houses, hotels and residences in the restricted zones. However, most times, the local authorities “twisted the law” to accommodate violators, he added.

Notices ignored

“There are instances where municipal authorities have regularised violations, though they have no powers to do so.

The authorities have not only not paid heed to circulars sent by my office; they have even ignored the notices sent by the deputy commissioners. In the last two years, around five circulars have been issued stating that those authorities found violating will be liable for prosecution,” Balachandra said.

The list of violating authorities will be placed before the district coastal management authority, after which it will be submitted to the Karnataka State Coastal Zone Management Authority, with recommendation for criminal prosecution.

Udupi has a sea coastline which is 105-km long and a riverine coastline (Shambhavi, Udyavara, Swarna, Seetha, Chakra and Souparnika rivers) of around 300 km.

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