Coastal Resources Zone Laws Of India: Cornerstone Of Environmental Security And Sustainability By Dr. Md. Zafar Mahfooz Nomani,Reader,Faculty of Law,Aligarh Muslim University,Aligarh-20200[India]
The legal discourse on Coastal Resource Zone (CRZ) tantamount to fishing into troubled water because India’s lengthy coast stretches is a saga of conflicts between union and states, traditional fishermen and owners of mechanized trawlers, shrimp industry and fisher folk, hoteliers, town planners and environmentalists. India’s long coastline of over 8000 km with associated continental shelf of 0.5 million km and an Exclusive economic zone of 2.02 million Km with its wetlands, lagoons, mangroves sea-grass beds, coral reefs and shallow bays, creeks and estuaries is very rich in marine biodiversity and natural resources. India is signatory of United Nation Convention of Law of Sea of 1982, which gives several coastal states the right to establish its territorial sea up to a limit of 12 nautical miles, contiguous zone between 12 and 24 miles limits, and exclusive economic zone up to 200 nautical miles. In accordance with the provisions of the Territorial Water, Continental shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Maritime Zone Act(M.Z. Act) of 1976, India established a 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone. India’s scientific endeavors in Antarctica have enabled it to secure consultative status in the Antarctic Treaty system. India joined the Antarctic Treaty in 1983, the Convention of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources of 1985 and is signatory to the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty of 1991. The legislative framework for controlling marine pollution is provided by M.Z. Act, 1976.8The Act asserts India’s sovereignty over the natural resources in the CS and EEZ However, India the omninibus power provided under the Indian Coast Guard Act, 1978 India coast guard patrols the maritime zones by taking all such measures as are necessary to preserve and protect that maritime environment and to prevent and control marine pollution. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1958 imposes civil and criminal liability in respect of oil spills by the owner of an Indian or foreign vessel regarding damages to the environment in the TW or the EEZ.The Act also provides a comprehensive code for dealing with the civil liability arising from oil pollution damage on no- fault liability basis. The first comprehensive effort to regulate CRZ manifested under CRZ Notification in 1991. The pre-1991 Notification phase the CRZ is governed by savoury mixture of plans, policies and broad mandate of Town and Country Planning (T&CP) laws. The pre-1991 CRZ notification phase is remarkably progressive in policy orientation but debilitating in legislative intent. While hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to enforce the prime ministerial directive against the establishment of hotel resort in Goa within 200 metres of HTL was rejected by Bombay High Court in Sergio Carvalho Case. However the forceful attempt to define CRZ is embedded in Environmental Guidelines for Development of Beaches published by Department of Environment in 1983 by Central Government. An assessment of fifteens years legislative history of CRZ regulation is an interesting discourse. In Indian Councils for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India,
the Supreme Court held that the amendment reducing the width of zone from 100 m to 50 m in respect of rivers, creeks and backwaters was contrary to the objects of EPA. The CRZ Notification prohibits 13 designated activities including establishing new industries and expanding existing units. Clause 3 regulates of permissible activities around water front and foreshore facilities such as construction for defence ports and harbours, and thermal power plants. It requirescoastal states and union territory administrations to prepare Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) identifying and classifying the CRZ areas within their respective territories to be approved by the MEF. Clause 6(1) classifies the coast into four categories. The CRZ-I category comprises areas that are ecologically sensitive and important as well as areas between the LTL and HTL.
Since the CRZ regulations came to environmental statutes without much meaningful debate, the law virtually underwent constant introspection by constitutions of B.B. Vohra Committee, Shekar Singh Committee and M.S. Swami Nathan Committee. The validity of CRZ Amended Notification, 1994 triggered substantial judicial interventions. The Goa Foundation, Nirmal Vishwa and Indian Heritage Society and Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action (ICELA) petitioned before the Supreme Court regarding blatant violation of CRZ laws causing serious damage to the environment and ecology. The Court was of the view that enactment of a law, but tolerating its infringement is worse than not enacting law at all. Continued tolerance of such violations of law not only renders legal provisions nugatory but such tolerance by the enforcement authorities encourages lawlessness and adoption of means which cannot, or ought not to be tolerated in any civilized society. In May 1995 the Supreme Court issued an interim injunction in the Shrimp Culture Case, prohibiting the setting up of new shrimp farms or the conversion of agricultural lands for aquaculture purposes in the coastal stretches of Andhra Pradesh. Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. This injunction was extended to all the coastal states in August, 1995. The regulatory regime of CRZ, tested on the bed rock of environrmntal security and sustainability discerns that the legal operational strategy is directed primarily to location of industries and operations, restricting and permitting appropriate activities,balancing development and protection needs and recognition of rights of coastal communities. Even though the CRZ law is shrouded in controversy and amendment and re-amendment compounded the confusion.