Tuesday 21 June 2016

Nayak panel for dilution of coastal safety rules

The Shailesh Nayak Committee of the environment ministry has proposed several relaxations in the coastal zone regulations. These relaxations could provide a boost to real estate, construction, ports and tourism sectors in coastal states. The changes could lead to a largely diminished role for the central government and the central environmental rules over coastal areas. State government would get a larger
say through their town and country planning departments. Rural coastal zones, too, could get greater room to develop under such a revised regime, when compared to the restrictions in place. The report commissioned in June 2014 to relook at the coastal regulations was submitted in January 2015. It was kept under wraps since then by the environment ministry. The report was released in June 2016 to Kanchi Kohli of the CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program after the Central Information Commissioner ordered so — 18 months after the first Right to Information application was filed.

The coastal regulations were last amended in 2011. The amendment did not go down well with most coastal states. The states had protested strongly about the impediment the regulations would have on development. The 2011 regulations required development of coastal development plans, which have been pending ever since with the Centre extending the timeline for finishing these.

The Nayak committee report has not been implemented so far.

It recommended that except for activities covered under environmental clearances, the state governments and the local authorities should be left in charge of managing coasts in towns, rural areas as well as the waters up to 12 nautical miles. With the environmental clearance regime also relaxed, especially for construction activity recently, the Nayak committee recommendations could lead to a boom along the coastline.

The panel has gone with most demands of the states, such as that of Maharashtra, to let the states decide the floor area ratio (FAR) according to town and country planning decisions, rather than the coastal regulations freezing it.

It had also asked for opening up seas for reclamation of land for an array of activities. Calling for “larger public interest”, the panel had said land could be reclaimed for “ports and harbours, fisheries-related activities and other infrastructure required in the larger public interest such as bridges, sea links on stilts, roads, important national installations related to coastal security, tourism”.

It had recommended that states be allowed to do rehabilitation and redevelopment of slums according to their plans, rather than via the 2011 coastal regulations. One of the limitations that the 2011 central regulations put in place was to tie private developers to work jointly with governments for the redevelopment projects.

Recommending relaxation of regulations for the tourism industry in the coastal states, the committee said temporary tourism facilities can be set up in no-development zones. Such tourist facilities can be built on a permanent basis as well on the landward sides of national or state highways cutting through these zones.

It’s also asked that the list of restrictive activities are best left to states to decide as per their regulations, leaving the centre to be involved only in industries that come to it for clearances under the environmental regulations.

The centre’s role and that of the state level specialised coastal regulatory authorities, the panel has suggested, should be to conserve the ecologically sensitive areas and set the standards and make the demarcations necessary for implementation of the policy. It has recommended a conservation, protection and management framework for ecologically fragile area with dense mangroves, coral reefs, nesting grounds. 

For rural coast lines the committee has recommended that areas with density higher than 2,161 persons per square kilometre the no development zones should be limited to 50 metres and for others to 200 metres of the high tide line. Housing development with standard restrictions for environmental protection should be allowed beyond these limits the panel has said. 

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