Maradu Demolition and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Rules

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Context: Few illegal apartment complexes in Maradu, Kerala, were razed as ordered by the Supreme Court for breaching Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The court had called the illegal constructions a “colossal loss” to the environment.

Relevance:
Prelims: General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change.
Mains: GS III-

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

MARADU DEMOLITION

Why in News?

  • On 8 May 2019, the Supreme Court of India ordered five apartments in Maradu municipality in Kerala to be demolished within one month, for violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.

How did the apartment complexes come up at Maradu?

  • Maradu lies just 7km from Kochi. The gram panchayat, formed in 1953, was upgraded to a municipality in 2010. On September 19, 2006, the panchayat, without obtaining the mandatory permission from the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA), issued building permits to four companies – Alpha Ventures Private Limited, Holy Faith Builders and Developers Limited, Jain Housing and Construction, and K.V. Jose – to construct five apartment complexes. People began to occupy flats in 2010.

Timeline of Controversy:

  • 1986 :
    • The Environment Protection Act of 1986 was enacted in the wake of the Bhopal Tragedy. It came into force on 19 November 1986.
    • The purpose of the Act is to implement the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.
  • 1991:
    • 1991 In February 1991, a notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. This was for the regulation of activities in the coastal area. As per the notification, four categories of Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) were defined. CRZ I, CRZ II, CRZ III, and CRZ IV.[4]
  • 1996:
    • In 1996, the Coastal Zone Management Plan was introduced.
  • 2005-2006 :
    • The permission to construct the buildings was granted by the Maradu Panchayat.
  • 2007:
    • The Kerala Government sent a letter to the Maradu panchayat along with a list of all the cases in which violations/anomalies in the issue of building permits were detected during the inspection of the Senior Town Planner (Vigilance).
    • The panchayat was asked to revoke all the listed building permits as per Rule 16 of the Kerala Municipality Building Rules 1999 (KMBR).
    • On receiving the letter, the panchayat issued a show-cause notice to the builders in all the cases.
    • Alpha Ventures continued the construction of the building.
    • In June 2007, as per the instruction of the Kerala government, the Maradu panchayat gave a show-cause notice to the concerned builders. Jain Housing, Holy Faith Builders, and KP Varkey also continued the construction activities. Holiday Heritage discontinued their housing project.
    • In 2007, in an affidavit, a panchayat member stated that Maradu is CRZ II.
  • 2010 :
    • Maradu panchayat became a municipality in November 2010. The municipality approached the Division Bench of the High Court with an appeal, which was dismissed. In 2016, the division bench of the Kerala High Court ruled that Maradu municipality was solely responsible for the situation.
  • 2011:
    • CZMP prepared in accordance with the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification of 2011 marked Maradu in the CRZ-II category.
  • 2018:
    • The Supreme Court observed the builders did not give a reply to the show-cause notice issued by the panchayat and instead, filed writ petitions (WP) with the High Court.
    • An expert committee was formed by the SC on 27 November 2018 to determine if the apartments are located in CRZ II or III.
    • The three-member committee reported that (as per the 1991 CRZ notification and the 1996 Kerala Coastal Zone Management Plan (KCZMP)), the area was CRZ III and not CRZ II.
    • Maradu panchayat had issued the building permit without the permission of the KCZMA. The builders contended that the area was determined to be CRZ II as per the draft KCZMP created according to the 2011 CRZ notification. However, the argument of KCZMA was accepted by the Supreme Court.
  • May 2019 :
    • The Supreme Court accepted the contention of the KCZMA and ordered the five apartments to be demolished within a month. The Kerala government has contracted IIT Madras to develop a model for demolition of the buildings.
    • The one-month period lapsed and all the review and writ petitions filed by the residents of the different apartments were denied.
  • September 2019:
    • The Supreme Court, in an order issued on 6 September 2019 directed the state government to demolish the apartments and report by 20 September.
    • Eviction notices were served to the residents subsequent to this. The residents say that they will resist the eviction.

Supreme Court on Maradu :

  • The apex court on September 23 had said that illegal construction in coastal areas of Kerala is a “colossal loss” to the environment, and had expressed shock over spate of unauthorized structures coming up at Kochi's Maradu.

A fast-shrinking lake, Vembanad lake:

  • Man-made interventions have taken a toll on the fast-shrinking Vembanad lake, which supports an ecosystem that has sustained life in the three districts of Ernakulam, Alappuzha, and Kottayam.
  • The lake is receding at an estimated rate of 0.288 sq. km each year, says P.K. Dinesh Kumar, scientist-in-charge of the National Institute of Oceanography, Kochi.
  • The spread of the lake, around 130.68 sq. km, in 1967, reduced to 9.382 sq. km in 2004 and 3.292 sq. km in 2011, he points out.
  • There have been encroachments for agricultural expansion, aquaculture, large engineering structures, harbor development, and tourism.
  • The Kerala government, after being pulled up by the apex court, has obtained a demolition impact assessment report from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, which has cautioned it about the possible environmental impact of bringing the buildings down, including contamination of the lake due to the debris.
Vembanad Lake:
  • Vembanad Lake is also known as Vembanad Kayal, Vembanad Kol, Punnamada Lake (in Kuttanad) and Kochi Lake (in Kochi).
  • Spanning several districts of Kerala and covering a territory of more than 2033.02 km2.
  • It is the largest lake in Kerala and the longest lake in India.
  • It is separated from the Arabian Sea by a narrow barrier island and is a popular backwater stretch in Kerala.
  • Vallam Kali (a.k.a Nehru Trophy Boat Race) is a Snake Boat Race held every year in the month of August in Vembanad Lake.
  • In 2002 it was included in the list of wetlands of international importance, as defined by the Ramsar Convention.
  • The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is located on the east coast of the lake.

 

Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ):
  • The coastal land up to 500m from the High Tide Line (HTL) and a stage of 100m along banks of creeks, estuaries, backwater, and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations, is called the Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ).
  • CRZ Notification 2018 is based on the recommendations of Shailesh Nayak committee and have been issued under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • CRZ along the country has been placed in four categories, which are as follows:
    • CRZ I – Ecologically Sensitive Areas:
      • “CRZ I areas are those “areas that are ecologically sensitive and important, such as… wildlife habitats, mangroves,… coral reefs, …close to breeding and spawning grounds of fish and other marine life, …rich in genetic-diversity, …likely to be inundated due to rise in sea level consequent upon global warming and such other areas as may be declared…..”
      • They lie between low and high tide line.
      • Exploration of natural gas and extraction of salt are permitted no construction is allowed except activities for atomic power plants, defense.
    • CRZ II – Shore Line Areas:
      • The areas that have been developed up to or close to the shoreline.
      • Unauthorized structures are not allowed to construct in this zone.
    • CRZ III – Undisturbed Area:
      • Rural (CRZ IIIA and CRZ IIIB) and Urban localities which fall outside I and II.
      • Only certain activities related to agriculture even some public facilities are allowed in this zone.
    • CRZ IV – Territorial Area:
      • An area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward.
      • Fishing and allied activities are permitted in this zone.
      • Solid waste should be let off in this zone.

REGULATION ZONE:

  • In all Coastal Regulation Zone Rules, the regulation zone has been defined as the area up to 500 m from the high-tide line. Several kinds of restrictions apply, depending on criteria such as population, ecological sensitivity, distance from shore, etc.

COASTAL REGULATION ZONE RULES:

  • CRZ Rules govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea.
  • The Rules, mandated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, were first framed in 1991.

WHAT DO THE RULES DO?

  • They sought to restrict certain kinds of activities, like large constructions, setting up of new industries, storage or disposal of hazardous material, mining, or reclamation and bunding, within a certain distance from the coastline.

WHY SUCH RULES NEEDED?

  • The basic idea is: because areas immediately next to the sea are extremely delicate, home to many marine and aquatic life forms, both animals and plants, and are also threatened by climate change, they need to be protected against unregulated development.

EVOLUTION OF RULES:

  • 2011:
    • The Centre notified fresh Coastal Regulation Zone Rules in 2011, which addressed some concerns.
    • An exemption was made for the construction of the Navi Mumbai airport. (The POSCO project had failed to take off due to other reasons.) Projects of the Department of Atomic Energy, which plans to set up nuclear power plants near the coast, were exempted.
  • 2014-18
    • After even these Rules were found inadequate, however, the Environment Ministry in 2014 set up a six-member committee under then Earth Sciences Secretary Shailesh Nayak to give suggestions for a new set of CRZ Rules. The committee submitted its report in 2015.
    • Simultaneously, the Chennai-based National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management defined a new high-tide line along India’s entire coastline to remove ambiguities. Separately, the Survey of India defined a hazard line along the coasts — to be used mainly for disaster management planning.
  • Post-2018:
    • Based on these and other inputs, the Environment Ministry issued fresh CRZ Rules in December 2018, which removed certain restrictions on building, streamlined the clearance process, and aimed to encourage tourism in coastal areas.
  • NEW RULES 2019
    • The government notified new CRZ Rules.
    • The stated objectives of CRZ rules are of promoting sustainable development and conserving coastal environments.
    • The new Rules have a no-development zone of 20 m for all islands close to the mainland coast, and for all backwater islands in the mainland.

New Rules Notified in 2019:
  • Allowing FSI as per current norms in CRZ areas:
    • As per CRZ, 2011 Notification, for CRZ-II (Urban) areas, Floor Space Index (FSI) or the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) had been frozen as per 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels.
    • In the CRZ, 2018 Notification, it has been decided to de-freeze the same and permit FSI for construction projects, as prevailing on the date of the new Notification. This will enable the redevelopment of these areas to meet the emerging needs.
  • Densely populated rural areas to be afforded greater opportunity for development:
    • For CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have now been stipulated as below:
      • (a)  CRZ-III A:
        • These are densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2161 per square kilometer as per 2011 Census.
        • Such areas shall have a No Development Zone (NDZ) of 50 meters from the High-tide level (HTL) as against 200 meters from the High Tide Line stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011 since such areas have similar characteristics as urban areas.
      • (b)  CRZ-III B :
        • Rural areas with population density of below 2161 per square kilometer as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall continue to have an NDZ of 200 meters from the High-tide level (HTL).
  • Tourism infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted:
    • Temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. have now been permitted in Beaches.
    • Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in the “No Development Zone” (NDZ) of the CRZ-III areas as per the Notification.
    • However, a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL should be maintained for setting up of such facilities.
  • CRZ Clearances streamlined:
    • The procedure for CRZ clearances has been streamlined. Only such projects/activities, which are located in the CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward) shall be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
    • The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level with necessary guidance.
  • A No Development Zone (NDZ) of 20 meters has been stipulated for all Islands:
    • For islands close to the mainland coast and for all Backwater Islands in the mainland, in wake of space limitations and unique geography of such regions, bringing uniformity in treatment of such regions, NDZ of 20 m has been stipulated.
  • All Ecologically Sensitive Areas have been accorded special importance:
    • Specific guidelines related to their conservation and management plans have been drawn up as a part of the CRZ Notification.
  • Pollution abatement has been accorded special focus:
    • In order to address pollution in Coastal areas treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards.
  • Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas (CVCA):
    • Sundarban region of West Bengal and other ecologically sensitive areas identified as under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 such as Gulf of Khambat and Gulf of Kutchh in Gujarat, Achra-Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Karwar and Coondapur in Karnataka, Vembanad in Kerala, Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, Bhaitarkanika in Odisha and Krishna in Andhra Pradesh are treated as Critical Vulnerable Coastal Areas.
    • These Critical Vulnerable Coastal Areas will be managed with the involvement of coastal communities including fisherfolk.
  • Defense and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.