Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Feb 03, 2005
Industry & Economy
Protest meet highlights need to protect mangroves
Mumbai , Feb. 2
ON the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Mangrove Society of India held a protest meet at the Azad Maidan on Wednesday to awaken public consciousness of large-scale mangrove destruction in Mumbai.
The meeting intended to gather support for the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), a law designed to protect coastal and marine formations like reefs as well as vegetation like mangrove and seagrass beds.
The basic aim of the CRZ is to ensure that the coast remains a barrier between the land and the sea.
To achieve this, there are certain restrictions that are being misconstrued either as anti-development or anti-poor. Part of the antagonism towards the CRZ stems from a misconception that there can be no activity within 500 m of the High Tide Line.
The reality is that the four categories built into the CRZ allow for a variety of uses.
In non-urban areas, the CRZ is cited as hampering the livelihood rights of coastal communities.
This is a misrepresentation since such traditional communities are exempted under the CRZ rules.
But it is in urban areas that the CRZ is under heavy fire. With real estate being the biggest money-spinner in Mumbai, it is not surprising that the CRZ has been opposed by builders who see their future business prospects in ever-increasing land reclamation, which the CRZ bans.
In a shrewd attempt to turn the anti-CRZ feeling to their benefit, the lobby of developers and builders has projected the idea that since reclamation is banned, there is no other land to build homes for the poor under the State's Government Slum Redevelopment Scheme. Thus the CRZ has unfairly been branded as anti-poor.
However, dangers to the CRZ come not only from those interested in the `Shanghaisation' of Mumbai but from the Government itself.
The first CRZ notification was brought out in 1991 but has never been implemented in its entirety. It has also been amended 17 times.
The dilution of the law has been so total that the Government itself has not bothered to publish an official version of the new rules.
The last official publication was in 2000 but there have been many changes ever since.
A poster at the rally expressed the frustration caused by the wishy-washy approach of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It read: "Do away with illogical thinking politicians and not with the CRZ laws.
In the post-tsunami scenario it is imperative that the coastal regulation zone be strengthened and implemented.
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