India's coastlines are being endangered by a new policy which loosens environmental regulations protecting against shoreline development as part of the country's efforts to move primary industries to its coastlines, fishing communities are warning.
On June 17, the National Fisherfolk Forum (NFF) submitted comments to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, marking the end of a period to register opposition to a new draft of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZ 18) issued April 2018.
Fishing communities across India held a day of protest on June 11 in response to the new draft, under the slogan 'Restore our coastline, secure our livelihoods.'
The newly approved draft, which was published without consultation with fishing or coastal communities, overturns protections in the current Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ 11).
It changes the definition of coastal regulation zone areas; reduces No Development Zone limits, and uses a new high tide line demarcation. It was also published only in English – excluding the populations most affected by its mandates – and incorporates the suggestions of a committee consulted only by ministries and state governments.
"We are the largest primary non-consumptive stakeholders and natural custodians of the coastal natural resources," NFF Chairperson Narendra Patil said. "The fishworkers of India will not remain silent on a document that has been prepared without our consultation.”
For fishing communities dependent on coastal ecosystems, the rollback of livelihood protections and guards against unchecked development are part of a longstanding battle to hold the central government accountable.
CRZ 11 has been amended 10 times, largely without public comment, and the Coastal Management Plans promised under CRZ 11 remain incomplete, according to the Siddharth Chakravarty Research Collective. Thousands of violations and encroachments remain unresolved since CRZ 11's predecessor, CRZ 91, was issued.
The transition to a coast-based or blue economy, under President Narendra Modi's Sagarmala Project, includes the transformation of coastal lands and waters for a range of industries; nationalization of rivers; port-led development, and the expansion of rail and roadways connecting maritime shipping pipelines to inland centers.
NFF and allied fisherfolk are now demanding the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change rescind the new draft and create a broader Coastal Regulation Zone Act through consultation with citizens, based on "sound scientific, environmental and social principles."
They are also requesting that Coastal Management Plans be completed by addressing lines, zones and long-term housing needs for fishing communities "ïn a transparent and accountable way, with community participation and traditional wisdom being incorporated."