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EDITORIALS

Carving Out the Coasts


The CRZ , 2018 prioritises the pursuit of profits at the cost of the environment and fi shers’ livelihoods.

T
he Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2018 notification the coast, construction of coastal roads, and unabated pollution
approved by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and have caused irreversible damage to low-lying areas, water-
Climate Change (MoEFCC) has revoked some of its strin- bodies, and the sea. Consequently, studies have shown that the
gent provisions to permit the expansion of development activi- impact of these processes has led to a decline in fish catch and
ties into the environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs), hitherto landings over time, which has adversely affected livelihoods,
deemed inaccessible by law. The salient features of the new policy especially of small-scale artisanal fishers, resulting in their
include the reduction of the CRZ limits and the no-development increasing alienation, while also leading to the widening of
zone (NDZ) area, and the classification of coastal zone areas, inequalities within society.
according to the density of population. For the setting up of But, by failing to recognise the traditional and customary
“strategic projects,” for defence and public utilities, even the rights of fishers, the enactment of the new CRZ policy
most ecologically critical areas that fall under the CRZ I classifi- would make legitimate the violations of the fishers’ customary
cation have not been excluded. Nonetheless, what does the new norms regarding the use of coastal commons. This would
CRZ rule imply from the perspective of environmental justice as intensify conflicts over resource use, eventually leading to the
well as distributive justice, with respect to the fishers? large-scale alienation of fishers from the coasts, especially in
By facilitating the large-scale intrusion of commercial and the absence of legislations protecting fishers’ rights and coast-
industrial activities into the fragile coastal territories, the new al rights. The fears voiced by fisher organisations of develop-
CRZ policy would upset the prevailing human–ecological balance. ment-forced displacement and disruption of livelihoods on a
This would lead to further degradation of marine ecosystems, large scale, therefore, are not utterly unfounded. The estab-
and disrupt the livelihoods of resource-dependent populations, lishment of large development projects, such as international
especially artisanal fishers living off the coasts. This, at a time container trans-shipment terminals and ports along the coast-
when coastal erosion and the hazards posed by the rising sea line, in the recent past, have also adversely affected marine life
level due to climate change have already endangered the lives and displaced thousands of fishers from coastal habitats with-
of populations inhabiting low-lying areas across the globe. out the formulation and implementation of a proper rehabilita-
Regions that lie along India’s west coast and those adjoining the tion and resettlement policy. Thus, promoting the business
river deltas on the east coast are known to be amongst the most agendas of other interest groups at the cost of fisher livelihoods
vulnerable areas. Whose concerns does the new notification, would further impoverish a community that already has been
then, seek to promote? pushed to the margins of an unequal society.
In effect, the policy would not only serve to facilitate the The state, on earlier occasions too, paid no heed to the
unhindered implementation of the central government’s ambi- demands of fisher organisations, as it has on most occasions
tious Sagarmala project—which consists of a series of commer- failed to implement or enforce the existing CRZ rules or check
cial ventures envisaged at an outlay of `8.5 trillion—spread all violations along the coasts. But, the new lines of demarcation
along India’s coastline, but also promote the development of altering the governance of coastal zones have revealed an
infrastructure, real estate and tourism, while permitting afford- overt political process driven by the pursuit of private profit
able housing along the coast. The utilitarian approach of the that disregards socioecological concerns without engaging in a
policy reveals a clear bias favouring business interests, while proper dialogue with the fishers or their organisations, such as
overriding the needs of coastal ecology, conservation and the the National Fishworkers Forum. Thus, the politics of policy-
fishers, the centuries-old custodians of the coasts, who do not view making driven by corporate capital has failed to take into
the sea merely as a resource. Hence, the concerns of the fishers account interrelated questions regarding the livelihoods of
are often seen to be in conflict with those of other interest resource-dependent populations and the conservation as well
groups that seek to corner profits from unfettered use and as sustainability of coastal ecosystems. In the long run, this
commercialisation of coastal resources and commons. would entail huge costs for society and, in turn, prove to be
In coastal cities, such as Mumbai and Chennai, increasing detrimental to the cause of overall development by engendering
urbanisation, changes in land use patterns, encroachments along new forms of disenfranchisement.
8 JANUARY 19, 2019 vol lIV no 3 EPW Economic & Political Weekly