Rules to destroy coastal India

An ambitious tourism project that is being put in place in Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) provides a glimpse of the kind of environmentally damaging development that the recently notified Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-2019 and the Island Protection Zone (IPZ)-2019 allow, even encourage, in India’s island territories and along its 7,516 km-long coast. On the anvil are a 50-beachtent resort on the ANI’s Aves Island, resorts and tree houses at Lalaji Bay on Long Island and at Smith Island. Seven islands in the archipelago will have seaplane operations. Under IPZ-2019, eco-tourism projects are allowed 20 metres from the high-tide line (HTL) in smaller islands like Baratang, Havelock and Car Nicobar, and at 50 metres in the larger islands. Tourism infrastructure projects, including development of resorts, are expected to come up in the coming months and years along the coast of the Indian mainland as well. Temporary facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks and changing rooms are permitted on beaches at a minimum distance of 10 metres from the HTL. Several state governments, including Karnataka, had called for amendments to the 2011 rules so that tourism infrastructure could be developed on beaches. The CRZ-2019 and the IPZ-2019 rules allow the building of infrastructure on beaches and close to the waterline. This is expected to boost beach tourism. Rich tourists can expect to spend their holidays on private beaches, untouched and unbothered by the sights and smells of the real India. India’s tourism industry is poised to boom.

However, the new CRZ and IPZ rules promote lopsided, destructive and exclusive development. They focus on tourism promotion to the exclusion of other industries like fishing, for instance. The rules have been framed to favour high-end tourism. What it entails is damage to the coastal environment, coral reefs and mangroves. Moreover, with private beaches and resorts coming up, the access of middle-class Indians to beaches could be shut off. Worryingly, beach tourism will crush the livelihoods of fishermen and other marginalised communities, who depend on access to the sea to earn their living. Luxury resorts will push fishermen and their boats out of the beaches. The ‘development’ that the new CRZ and IPZ rules bring will come at an enormous cost.

That the CRZ-2019 and the IPZ-2019 pay little attention to marginalised communities does not come as a surprise. The entire process of drafting the rules kept fishermen and coastal communities out. The little consultation that happened with the public was with members of the tourism industry. Voices of coastal communities were not heard. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ indigenous groups are already endangered. Will the new CRZ and IPZ rules wipe them out?


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Rules to destroy coastal India


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