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Saving Coastal Goa

The state must quickly finalise its coastal zone management plan

The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) has proposed a 100-metre buffer line from the high tide line (HTL) to landward side in its latest draft coastal zone management plan. The buffer line will allow, between 100 metres and 200 metres from the HTL along the seafront, construction or reconstruction of the dwelling units of communities that have been traditionally living along the coast. The draft plan should be welcomed by the communities as it would also allow them to carry out fishing and fishing-related activities in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) area. The plan is realistic as the NCSCM prepared it after surveying and mapping the fishing hamlets all along the coast in the state and finding 186 fishing wards within or adjacent to the CRZ area. The CZMP involves managing coastal areas to balance environmental, economic, human health and human activities.

Goa has missed several deadlines to finalise the plan and send it to the central government for approval and notification. It is intriguing that despite NCSCM submitting the draft CZMP to the state government on May 9, 2017 the authorities concerned have been unable to finalise it and send it to the central authorities for approval. Last November a two-member team of scientists from NCSCM had carried out a ground “truthing” process as part of preparation for the coastal management plan. The team made constituency-wise presentations of the draft CZMP to ministers and MLAs. That was obviously a way to keep them informed so there are no objections raised regarding the plan in the final stages. From the objections raised by the public representatives and the communities living along the coast in the state in the past it had been known that they did not want laws, rules and regulations to curb their activities, even if they were aimed at protecting the coastal environment from deterioration. Minimizing adverse impact of human activities has to be accepted by them. We all have to protect the environment together.

The state government had prepared a preliminary project report for an integrated coastal zone management project (ICZMP) worth Rs 1,255 crore more than a year ago. The ICZMP is funded by the World Bank. The ICZMP has been framed for sustainable coastal development which allows activities without compromising on environmental and social needs. Anti-sea erosion measures have to be undertaken for the beaches with shoreline management. The project also covers shoreline, conservation and pollution management, besides tourism and resource management. It also deals with livelihood management and institutional arrangements, awareness and capacity building. In the absence of regulations a lot of coastal land has been lost to unplanned and illegal development. Any delay in finalising a sustainable plan would lead to more area being lost to illegal development. It is quite ironical that though Goans have fought for protecting environment for long sections of them are objecting to CZMP, which is aimed  protecting Nature for posterity. The authorities would however need to address the concerns of the coastal communities about protection of their traditional livelihood. 

In November 2017 the National Green Tribunal (NGT) set the deadline of April 2018 for all coastal states and Union territories to submit CZMPs. Goa is among three coastal states that are yet to finalize their CZMP. After missing several deadlines the state had sought an extension till October 30 last to finalise the plan but failed to do so. The NGT has now extended the deadline to August 31 next. The concerned state authorities should lose no time to study the draft plan and make suggestions after the hearing scheduled for July 7, so that they can send their CZMP to MoEF&CC for approval before the extended deadline ends. Failure to submit CZMP would reflect on the ability of the state authorities and earn adverse reaction from the NGT which pulled up the state even in the past. The state must make a coastal zone management plan that strikes a fine, sustainable balance between the absolute and non-negotiable aspects of the environment and the housing and livelihood needs of the traditional coastal communities.

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