The Shore Zone (SZ), roughly falling at the intersection of marine, terrestrial and lower atmosphere, is uniquely characterized by different species, habitats and ecosystems. With each swash and backwash that alter and mould the shape and appearance of the SZ steadily and constantly, is otherwise environmentally fragile and highly sensitive. SZ is roughly at the middle part of Coastal Zone (CZ), is sandwiched between the Coastal Land Zone (CLZ) on the landside and the shelf zone on the seaside. The SZ, a domain of CZ, plays a very significant role in the social and economic sectors of a country and India, with a 7517km long shoreline (5423km mainland coastline and 2094km offshore islands) is no exception.
Why manage the coast?
Post WWII, anthropogenic activities, such as urbanization, industrialization, transportation to name a few; in the CLZ tended to sharply increase the pressure on the living and nonliving resources of the CZ. Global warming, climate change induced sea level rise accelerated the stress on ecosystems make the latter more fragile. Such human actions on the coastal zone require careful design of management measurers followed by implementation on the ground. India has 5423km mainland shoreline and coastal land of diverse physiography, climate, land cover and land use, and degree of development. The latter warrants need and importance of managing parts of the CLZ of India.
Regulation of Coastal Zone!!
The year 1991 was a landmark year, As a notification was issued by the then Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) (later re-designated by adding … “and Climate Change”) that aimed primarily at protecting the CZ by scientific development and management of the coastal resources of the nation. This notification emphasizing the value and importance of ecosystems of CZ and coastal resources, drew up a framework of modalities on the extent of exploitation of the resources. At the same time, this notification had put forward some strict restrictions on setting up new ones and expansion of existing industries, operations or processes.
For implementation of the rules, the 1991 notification divided the CZ into four sub-zones designated as CRZ-I, CRZ-II, CRZ-III, and CRZ-IV, where CRZ stands for Coastal Regulation Zone.
CRZ covers the coastal land up to 500m landward of the High Tide Line (HTL) and a 100m wide swath along the banks of creeks, estuaries, backwaters and rivers where tidal fluctuations are noticed.
In brief, CRZ-I lies between the high tide line and low tide line, and as these areas are highly fragile and sensitive, we need to bestow special attention and care to this zone. CRZ-II covers areas that have already been developed up to or close to the shore, development of new structures is not permitted in this zone. The areas that are relatively undisturbed and those which do not belong to either Category-I or II, come under CRZ-III. These will include developed or underdeveloped coastal zone in the rural areas and areas within Municipal limits or in other legally designated urban areas which are not substantially built up. Agricultural activities and some public facilities are allowed in this zone. The CRZ-IV covers Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands, and demarcates the aquatic area from low tide line up to territorial limits, covering the area of the tide influenced water body.
The CRZ notification after coming into force in 1991, was amended many times in order to rectify the shortcomings/incongruities in the guidelines, which are primarily due to a set uniform guidelines for the entire coastal stretch of the country without factorising in biodiversity, physiography or demography etc. and due to lack of no clear cut procedure/s for obtaining CRZ clearance.
After rectification of the shortcomings in the 1991 notification, in 2011 a consolidated and robust set of regulation has been put in place. This notification has the day to day life of coastal community on the centre stage, specifically to secure and ensure the livelihood of fish-workers in addition to a sustainable and sound development of India’s coastal area.
The subdivision of coastal area is much similar to that of 1991 notification, It has special provisions for Goa, Kerala, Greater Mumbai and Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas (CVCAs) by considering the coastal morphological aspects. In this notification CRZ- I (ecologically sensitive area) and CRZ -IV (The water area from the Low Tide Line to 12 nautical miles on the seaward side) need clearance from union government to execute a new development activity, for the CRZ-II (Area developed up to or close to the shoreline) and CRZ-III (developed and undeveloped) the state government have the right to give the consent.
However, 2011 notification failed to gain acceptance of the majority and raised many questions by the coastal sates/ Union Territories (UT) along with other stake holders. Consequently, in 2018 a draft notification was released by MoEF, based on recommendations of Shailesh Nayak committee, which relaxed, or shall we say diluted, the CRZ clearance procedure and sub-categorized CRZ III area into CRZ III A and CRZ III B, based on the population density. This draft notification has identified economic growth as the keystone, especially by promoting and generating better livelihood opportunities for coastal communities with a strong bias toward conservation principles. The 2018 draft notification allows urban area development in CRZ II. Further, revised CRZ considers conservation and management plan for Ecologically Sensitive Areas and give attention for managing the pollution in the coastal zone. This in turn aims to encourage the livelihood of coastal community and the sustainable development of the coastal area. On 18th January 2019, The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the 2019 CRZ norms, swapping the existing CRZ norms of 2011.
“What sight is more beautiful than a high energy beach
facing lines of rolling white breakers? What battle
ground is more ferocious than where waves and sand
meet? What environment could be more exciting to
study than this sandy interface between land and sea?
And yet how much do we know about sandy beaches?”
••••• McLachlan and Erasmus (1983)