ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

किनाऱ्यांना आकारताना

‘किनारपट्टी नियमन क्षेत्र, २०१८’ ही अधिसूचना पर्यावरण आणि मच्छिमारांची उपजीविका यांना फाटा देऊन नफेखोरीला प्राधान्य देणारी आहे.

 

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2018 notification approved by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has revoked some of its stringent provisions to permit the expansion of development activities into the environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs), hitherto deemed inaccessible by law. The salient features of the new policy include the reduction of the CRZ limits and the no-development zone (NDZ) area, and the classification of coastal zone areas, according to the density of population. For the setting up of “strategic projects,” for defence and public utilities, even the most ecologically critical areas that fall under the CRZ I classification have not been excluded. Nonetheless, what does the new CRZ rule imply from the perspective of environmental justice as well as distributive justice, with respect to the fishers?

By facilitating the large-scale intrusion of commercial and industrial activities into the fragile coastal territories, the new CRZ policy would upset the prevailing human–ecological balance. This would lead to further degradation of marine ecosystems, and disrupt the livelihoods of resource-dependent populations, especially artisanal fishers living off the coasts. This, at a time when coastal erosion and the hazards posed by the rising sea level due to climate change have already endangered the lives of populations inhabiting low-lying areas across the globe. Regions that lie along India’s west coast and those adjoining the river deltas on the east coast are known to be amongst the most vulnerable areas. Whose concerns does the new notification, then, seek to promote?

In effect, the policy would not only serve to facilitate the unhindered implementation of the central government’s ambitious Sagarmala project—which consists of a series of commercial ventures envisaged at an outlay of ₹ 8.5 trillion—spread all along India’s coastline, but also promote the development of infrastructure, real estate and tourism, while permitting affordable housing along the coast. The utilitarian approach of the policy reveals a clear bias favouring business interests, while overriding the needs of coastal ecology, conservation and the fishers, the centuries-old custodians of the coasts, who do not view the sea merely as a resource. Hence, the concerns of the fishers are often seen to be in conflict with those of other interest groups that seek to corner profits from unfettered use and commercialisation of coastal resources and commons.

In coastal cities, such as Mumbai and Chennai, increasing urbanisation, changes in land use patterns, encroachments along the coast, construction of coastal roads, and unabated pollution have caused irreversible damage to low-lying areas, waterbodies, and the sea. Consequently, studies have shown that the impact of these processes has led to a decline in fish catch and landings over time, which has adversely affected livelihoods, especially of small-scale artisanal fishers, resulting in their increasing alienation, while also leading to the widening of inequalities within society.

But, by failing to recognise the traditional and customary rights of fishers, the enactment of the new CRZ policy would make legitimate the violations of the fishers’ customary norms regarding the use of coastal commons. This would intensify conflicts over resource use, eventually leading to the large-scale alienation of fishers from the coasts, especially in the absence of legislations protecting fishers’ rights and coastal rights. The fears voiced by fisher organisations of development-forced displacement and disruption of livelihoods on a large scale, therefore, are not utterly unfounded. The establishment of large development projects, such as international container trans-shipment terminals and ports along the coastline, in the recent past, have also adversely affected marine life and displaced thousands of fishers from coastal habitats without the formulation and implementation of a proper rehabilitation and resettlement policy. Thus, promoting the business agendas of other interest groups at the cost of fisher livelihoods would further impoverish a community that already has been pushed to the margins of an unequal society.

The state, on earlier occasions too, paid no heed to the demands of fisher organisations, as it has on most occasions failed to implement or enforce the existing CRZ rules or check violations along the coasts. But, the new lines of demarcation altering the governance of coastal zones have revealed an overt political process driven by the pursuit of private profit that disregards socioecological concerns without engaging in a proper dialogue with the fishers or their organisations, such as the National Fishworkers Forum. Thus, the politics of policymaking driven by corporate capital has failed to take into account interrelated questions regarding the livelihoods of resource-dependent populations and the conservation as well as sustainability of coastal ecosystems. In the long run, this would entail huge costs for society and, in turn, prove to be detrimental to the cause of overall development by engendering new forms of disenfranchisement.

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