Centre proposes new CRZ norms to boost beach tourism

When finalised, the new norms would not only benefit the tourism infrastructure but also allow the locals to expand their houses. Representative image

Relaxing several norms, the Union Environment Ministry has come out with a new draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification with the underlying objective of boosting beach tourism and promote developmental activities along the coast.

When finalised, the new norms would not only benefit the tourism infrastructure but also allow the locals to expand their houses.

The changes were based on the recommendations of an expert committee, headed by former Earth Sciences secretary Shailesh Nayak.

The panel was set up by the NDA government after it received submissions from Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra governments pointing out how CRZ-2011 regulations, approved by the UPA government, hampered development works near the coast and tourism.

The existing CRZ norms that regulate all developmental activities along India's 7,500 km long coastline, divide the area into four zones. CRZ-1 and CRZ-4 are the most ecologically sensitive areas, but the bulk of the coastline falls in the other two categories.

CRZ-2 covers areas that are already developed, whereas CRZ-3 norms are for areas that are “relatively undisturbed” in the rural areas as well as under-developed municipal localities.

The new norms are intended to benefit people mostly living in the CRZ-3 zone.

The draft proposes to categories CRZ-3 areas in two sub-groups and suggest two different set of norms for their developments.

For more populated areas (population density of 2,161 per square kilometre as per 2011 census), the limit of the no-development zone has been reduced to 50 meters from the High Tide Line from 200 meters in the existing norms. For less populated areas, there is no change.

One of the controversial change in the proposed norm is to allow hotels and resorts to come up in the no development zone areas in CRZ-3 through which a national and a state level highway passes. Some of the areas along Karnataka's nearly 320 km of the coast are likely to fall in this category.

“On the landward side of such roads in the NDZ, resorts/hotels and other tourism facilities have also been proposed to be permitted subject to the extant regulations of the concerned state. Temporary tourism facilities have been proposed to be taken up on the seaward side of the roads,” says the draft notification that would be open for public comments for 60 days.

Also, temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms and drinking water facilities have been proposed in the beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also proposed to be permissible in the No Development Zone of the CRZ-3 areas.

This provision, environmentalists apprehend, would lead to the development of new tourist spots near the coast, disturbing the natural ecological balance.

For the tidally influenced water bodies like an estuary, the CRZ limit has been proposed to be reduced from 100 meters to 50 meters. A no development zone of 20 meters has been proposed for all islands close to the mainland coast and for all backwater islands.

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