Chennai: Having taken on the centre over development plans, fisherfolk in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday threatened a statewide stir over the state government’s coastal zone management plan (CZMP).
Fishing communities have been raising concerns over the central government’s ambitious Sagarmala project saying the coastal development plan is just an excuse for “land grab". Now they say the state government’s draft CZMP is also “illegal", drawing a link between the central and state plans.
The CZMP document, prepared by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, a government-authorized agency, strategizes development along the coast.
Last week, the Tamil Nadu government uploaded the draft on its website and sought public comments. Since then, environmentalists have claimed that critical information required to conduct public consultation is missing from the CZMP maps and that the draft plan is not in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of 1991 and amendments made in 2011. The maps uploaded by the government do not contain the hazard line which is a demarcation of areas that are vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, waves and tides, environmentalists said.
The location of the hazard line is important because in places where the hazard line lies beyond 500 metres from the high tide line, the CRZ notification prohibits development between the two lines.
According to the Chennai-based Coastal Resource Centre, an organization that works with the coastal communities, the notification also requires the state government to provide safeguards for the fishing communities if located within the hazard line.
“Not demarcating the hazard line will give room for unrestricted development in vulnerable areas along the coast," said Durai Mahendran, general secretary of Tiruvallur district fishermen association who addressed the media along with fisherfolk from Chennai and Kanchipuram districts on Tuesday.
He added: “The maps don’t have any long-term housing plan for fishers as mandated by the notification and fail to highlight our livelihood spaces."
Mahendran said the association has written to the government against plans to intensify development in vulnerable low-lying areas such as coastal wetlands and would organize a protest across the state if the government fails to address the issue.
In places like Ennore and Kanyakumari where there is a proposal to build a port, the government has removed key tidal zones such as mud-flats and salt marshes from the CRZ maps.
Mahendran said, “This clearly exposes the government’s intention to parcel out the coastal wetlands to commercial interests like the Sagarmala project."
The proposed Enayam International Container Transshipment Terminal (EICTT), a port to be developed at Enayam, Kanyakumari, has witnessed opposition from the fishing community over the past years. The port, which was earlier proposed to be established at Colachel, was shifted 10km away to Enayam in 2016. The fisherfolk fear sea erosion and have claimed that the Enayam project would displace over 30,000 fishermen families.
Union minister for road transport, highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari, who was in Tamil Nadu on 26 February said that 104 projects at a cost of Rs2.5 trillion would be implemented under the Sagarmala project in Tamil Nadu.