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Relaxation to be allowed for construction with Environment Ministry’s consent

New Delhi: The stringent Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms have so far proved to be a double-edged sword that go a long way in securing vulnerable areas but at the same time wrecking many a developmental plan. The recent amendment to the rules, however, allows relaxations, if needed, for construction activities even though they contravene the Coastal Protection Act of 2019. 

If the Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) is convinced that such activities are needed, the Authority can recommend it to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change as per the new provision. It has also been directed to hand over the application along with a justification for the recommendation, for the Ministry’s consideration.

Even though the Government had aimed at stringent regulations through the CRZ notification, the final call would now be made by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The possibility of relaxation has been specified in the conditions prepared for the approval and proceedings of allowed activities in the coastal zone.

The Coastal Zone Management Authority in States has been granted the powers to directly grant permission for activities connected to boat jetties, seawalls, groynes, and bunds in CRZ limits. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has incorporated these changes in the amendment to the rules framed under the Coastal Protection Act of 2019.

The local authorities can give the nod for houses of an area below 300 square metres. CZMA is to decide on the works related to boat jetties, check dams, groyne (‘pulimuttu’ in Malayalam), bunds and such included under CRZ-1 and CRZ-4 classifications.

It has also been clarified that Sea, Coastal Environmental Impact Study is not needed for houses and building construction projects.

Meanwhile, there is no clarity regarding the Coastal Conservation Plan which is the base for the implementation of the CRZ norms, its amendment notification and the proceedings. 

Authorities including the National Green Tribunal had pointed out that the States and Union Territories not finalising the conservation plan based on the 2019 notification is a violation of the Supreme Court ruling.

How to seek relaxation

Applications are to be submitted through the Parivesh portal ( Papers including a brief description of the project, Environmental Impact study report (except for those given relaxation), risk assessment report, disaster management plan report, CRZ map (within 7 km limit), project blueprint, and a no-objection paper from the Pollution Control Board, are to be presented along with the application.

The norms clearly mention who is the authority for each project right from the application to the final decision. For example: The Central Ministry is to decide upon all developmental activities and projects under CRZ 1 and 4, those passing through these areas, projects which are part of 2 and 3 CRZ zones, projects related to Atomic energy, Defence or those of strategic importance, and projects that may affect the National Security.

The State Government and the Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) must forward the applications and the recommendations to the respective authority as per the notification. The Depart of Environment must take up the responsibility in the states where the CZMA has not been constituted yet.