Is the law protecting India's coasts being diluted? TN activists carry out protest yatra

In March the Central government proposed that the current Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) be replaced by the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ).
Is the law protecting India's coasts being diluted? TN activists carry out protest yatra
Is the law protecting India's coasts being diluted? TN activists carry out protest yatra
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Since the Central government approved the Enayam port project in Kanyakumari last year, there have been protests by the fisherfolk community claiming that it will affect more than 20,000 families in the area. Fishworkers now have another reason to worry as activists claim that the new Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification of the Central government will be diluting the coastal protection laws and making way for industrialisation.  

To protest against dilution of coastal protection laws, coastal industrialisation and increasing prices of fishing accessories due to Goods and Services Tax (GST) four organisations--the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement (NAPM), Peoples’ Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), Tamil Nadu Land Rights Federation (TNLRF) and All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP)--carried out a ‘yatra' from July 10 to July 27, 2017 from Nerrody to Chennai. 

In March 2017, the Central government proposed that the current Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification be replaced by the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification. According to the Centre for Policy Research, in the new notification, housing and basic infrastructure for local inhabitants will be allowed after 50 mts from the High Tide Line instead of 100 mts after CRZ III areas. 

Moreover, temporary tourism facilities will be allowed in the ecologically sensitive areas. “We will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to dilute the CRZ or to replace it with the industry-friendly Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone notification (MCRZ),” said Narendra Patil, Chairperson of National Fisherworkers Forum.

“The CRZ notification 2011 was diluted from the 1991 notification”, said Jesu Rathinam, Convenor, Coastal Action Network. 

“But still the 2011 notification gave some space for protection of coastal zone like no development in ecologically sensitive area. But now, this new notification allows construction in ecologically sensitive areas and it has allowed construction in about 50 metres from the High Tide Line and in the sea up to 12 nautical miles. That means the entire sea and coastal areas are open to development. They are allowing all permanent structures which were earlier prohibited and there are no actions on the violations by the state government,” she said.

She added that the fishermen community are the most vulnerable and are displaced from the coastal areas for industrialisation.

Activists also slammed the Enayam port project and said it will extensively affect the fishermen. 

“Located within 20 km of Adani’s Vizhinjam port, the Enayam Port will be a financial, environmental and social disaster. It will trigger disastrous sea erosion in an already eroding coast and threaten the livelihood of 20,000 families,” said Jasiah Joseph, Co-ordinator, People’s Movement Against Enayam.

They also claimed that the higher tax was affecting the fishing community.  Earlier, there was no GST on ropes, wire ropes and nets which are used for fishing but now, the fishermen have to pay 12 per cent GST on these products.

The Enayam port is proposed to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 21,000 crore and emerge as a southern gateway of transshipment in the country. It will mainly cover the area from Kurumpanai to Thengapattinam, 12 km apart. The project also consists of a railway line and four-lane roadway to increase connectivity. The four-lane road will run from Nattalam to Enayam.

Activists blamed the central and state government for ignoring the needs of the fisherfolk and helping the corporates. “The coasts must be protected not only for the fishermen but also for the natural resources. By changing laws, it is clear that the government is supporting corporates and their projects, it will affect the livelihood of hundreds of people,” said Jasiah Joseph.

“The BJP government at the centre has behaved in such a way as if the fishworkers are not even citizens of this country. Instead of protecting the lives and livelihoods of the fisher people and other coastal communities the Modi government is paving the way for privatisation of coastal land and exploitative commercialisation of the Indian seas. This amounts to declaring war on more than a million people and their dependent families,” said TP Peter, General Secretary, National Fishworkers Forum.

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