Monday, September 20, 2010

National Fishworkers Forum comprehensively rejects the Draft CRZ Notification : NATIONAL FISHWORKERS’ FORUM (NFF)

The National Fishworkers Forum completely rejects the draft CRZ Notification 2010 put up on the MoEF website.

Given the fact that there are only cosmetic differences between the pre-draft Notification and the Notification pertaining to Coastal Regulation Zone, it appears that either the Minister for Environment and Forests is trying to fool the people or the bureaucrats in that department are hoodwinking the Minister and the public while acting as puppets of the various lobbies and vested interests.

There has been a colossal waste of public funds by holding 10 consultations across the country ostensibly, to understand the views and opinions of the fishing and other communities living along the coast as none of the recommendations made at these consultations are reflected in the notification. Hence what was the purpose of these consultations except for being eyewash to raise the people’s hopes and then dash them to smithereens?

Even though at each and every consultation, fishing communities along with other traditional occupants of the coastline of the country had consistently and very strongly demanded that the notification enshrines their right to live along the coastline that they have been occupying for centuries and their right to livelihood from what the coastal environment provides, be enshrined in the Notification. Sadly this demand has been royally ignored by the Minister and his mandarins as the same is not reflected in the Notification.

The Notification neither protects the fishing communities nor the coastal environment. Activities that do not need to be within 500 m from the sea like atomic plants, greenfield airports, “non-polluting” industries, SEZs, large housing projects, etc., are all permitted without any clear rationale. .There is also no attempt to take account of the cumulative impacts of thermal power plants and ports along the coast.

Given this reality, in what way does the CRZ Notification really provide for the protection of environment and safeguard the rights of fishermen and their livelihood?.

There is no case for the special status sought to be given to Kerala, Goa and Mumbai. Given that the situation along India’s vast coastline the coast and its biodiversity differs so vastly, this only opens up the possibility of each State asking for, and being given, a special status. This will only serve to dilute the CRZ Notification and open up the coast to builders, the tourist lobby, land sharks and industry, while offering no protection to the environment and the traditional inhabitants of the coast.

The so-called special concession given to Goa is nothing but humbug and mere eyewash. All that it recommends for Goa is mapping of the coastal villages and the khazan lands which do not entail any protection of the environment or the fishermen. Everybody is aware that the coastal villages in Goa have fishermen living there and hence mere mapping of these villages has no meaning unless it is supported by some clearly stated provisions to protect their houses and means of livelihood. In fact, the special concessions provided for the fishing community in Goa appears to be an attempt to ghetotise them in order to take control of the entire village under the Coastal Zone Management Plan and thereafter throw it open for land sharks and developers.

Similarly, for the khazan lands mere mapping will bring no tangible benefits particularly when there is no specific provision prohibiting conversion of khazan lands for other purposes. In such a situation, the khazan lands, which are an unique eco-system of the country found only in Goa, will be converted to other purposes like pisciculture, etc. under the guise of its management.

Even the special concession granted to Kerala whereby the setback area in backwater islands is reduced to 50 mts appears to be for the benefit of hoteliers and developers who have acquired large chunks of the land in these islands, rather that in the interest of the local inhabitants.

This is precisely the reason why the charge that the Department’s bureaucrats are acting as puppets of the vested interest is applicable.

The National Fishworkers Forum will meet shortly to plan its course and do everything in its power to ensure that the draft notification in its current form is withdrawn..


Matanhy Saldanha

Chairperson, NFF

The National Fishworkers Forum

(A Federation of State Level Trade Unions in India)

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