A month after the demolition of four illegally-built apartments in Maradu municipality of Kerala's Ernakulam district, the state government is now in a hurry to finish the works relating to the latest coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification issued by the central government in January 2019. The notification, that classifies coastal areas into various zones and regulates construction and commercial activities based on the ecological specifics of the areas, would come into effect only after the states prepare their coastal zone management plan maps. The CRZ notification of 2011 is in effect now.
The government acted swiftly on this after the Supreme Court this week asked the chief secretary to submit the list of CRZ violations across the state within six weeks. The court's directive came on a petition filed by filmmaker Major Ravi, who had owned a flat in one of the four demolished apartments at Maradu.
The Kerala government has entrusted the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS), Thiruvananthapuram, with the task of preparing the map based on the new notification. NCESS is an agency authorized by the Centre to demarcate high tide line and coastal morphologies to prepare Coastal Zone Management Plan for the coastal stretches of the country.
The state government has now asked the NCESS if it would be able to finish the maps by March, which seems to be an impossibility at the moment.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday convened a meeting with the officials concerned to evaluate the progress of the work relating to drafting the plan and maps. At the meeting, the CM is learnt to have asked the officials whether they could finish the work by March. The government has also convened another meeting with the director of NCESS who could not attend Wednesday's discussions.
According to sources, the March deadline appears too close since the agency has so far worked on the maps for only three of the 10 coastal districts in the state.
“The NCESS has almost completed the work on three districts. Now, we have to rush up for the remaining seven districts,” a source told Onmanorama on Wednesday.
Once the map is ready, it will have to be submitted to the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA).
“The KCZMA will send it to the local bodies concerned for public display. Then a public hearing will be conducted for the people to register their complaints and grievances relating to the new demarcations. Then the grievances will be sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The MoEF will appoint a technical committee to scrutinise the map and examine the people's grievances. And with their recommendations the MoEF will give approval for the map, an official said.
Public hearing would take at least 45 days for each district. It could be carried out simultaneously by different teams too.
The official said no state has so far prepared the maps based on the 2019 notification.
The official said measurement of salinity in backwaters could be a reason for the delay in preparing the maps. As per the notification guidelines issued in June 2019, the salinity tests should be conducted in the driest season, that is March-April.
Only water bodies containing salinity of five parts per thousand (ppt) fall under CRZ.
In the next meeting, the NCESS is likely to cite the guideline and demand more time to finish the drafting of the maps.
The Maradu flat complexes were demolished as per a Supreme Court order that found the buildings were constructed in violation of CRZ rules.
As per reports, the state government has identified over 26,000 violations across the state. The list would be submitted to the Supreme Court only after scrutiny of the KCZMA.