The fate of illegal constructions in CRZ

The Supreme Court order of demolition of five buildings in Marad, Kerala has come as hot news in media with the people applauding the order as well as a few condemning them. This has not been the first instance of demolition of buildings for illegal construction in coastal lines against the CRZ regulations. Rainbow restaurant, in the banks of Periyar, Aluva also met a similar fate of demolition for illegal construction on CRZ regulations in 2014. Why were these construct to be taken down and what does the coastal regulation zone mean. It has been a question that plagues us.

Sustainable buildings and constructions are something of a social media hot topic right now and also a constant topic for discussion. But similar to all land reforms that have been presented, we have seen them being butchered up for profits. With the instance of union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi diluting the CRZ norms further is a concern.

What is Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)?

Coastal Regulation Zone was declared in 1991, to ensure protection to the coastal stretches of seas, bays, rivers, backwaters and such waterbodies. Classified into 4 zones for the purpose of the regulation, CRZ regulations check the construction near the water bodies and ensures sustainability. The act has been revised in 2011 and in 2018 revision providing further possibilities of construction in coastal areas

The ecologically sensitive areas that lie in between the high and low tide line and areas of importance for maintaining the ecosystems such as national parks, marine parks, sanctuaries, reserve forests, wildlife habitats, mangroves. corals/coral reefs, areas of historical/heritage importance, areas rich in genetic diversity can come under Category I of CRZ. No new construction is allowed, allowing only structures of local needs like salt making, roads in intertidal areas and also has the permit for the defense projects.

Category II of coastal Zone includes areas that are substantially built up areas, regions under the municipal limits, with accesses such as roads, sewage already built up. Construction is possible on the landward side of the public roads built up with the concerned authorities, ensuring permits from State Coastal Zone Management Authority.

Category III of the coastal zone include regions that are undisturbed, coastal zones in rural areas and lands falling under municipal limits in which no substantial built up were made. These regions have a stricter no build policy, with a No Development Zone (NDZ) of up to 200 meters from the coast.

Category IV includes coastal stretches of Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep and small islands that are not categorized. It also includes the up to 12 nautical miles from the lower tide line, which is essentially the region of water body under the influence of the country.

So effectively no construction should be undertaken in the CRZ, but a few exceptions such as jetties, harbors, projects of defense importance are permitted for obvious reasons. So how come, the five multi-story construction projects – Kayaloram Apartments, Holy Faith Apartments, Alfa Ventures, Holiday Heritage and Jain Housing came into being in a CRZ III zone. According to personnel involved, they had secured the permission from Maradu panchayath, this was before 2006 before Maradu was elevated to Municipality level. But the permission by panchayat was granted without consulting with Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority ( KCZMA), who actually do hold the decision making power. The construct then being in a CRZ III zone only holds a slim chance of getting them approved. The best exception that could have been possibly made in a CRZ III zone is an extension of a garden, provided no changes in the ecological system are made and the region is made accessible to all.

The demolishment of these housing is no joyous occasion, but it is a peak time to take a stand to check construction in order to check the drastic changes that are made because of human action. With projects like Kapico resort still standing in the Vembanad lake, a Ramsar site identified and marked as a Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas (CVCA) stands as a sore point in the system. Ecologists identified that more than 100 projects have already encroached the coastal lines, without a hard hand of justice, can one argue for sustainable construction.

A Sore Spot in Judgment by CRZ 2018 reforms

As mentioned early on, with the CRZ reforms passed on by the cabinet in 2018, liberation has been made in the NDZ. With the current reform, even if the five standing projects that are to be demolished, there stands a case that the region can be in future exploited by real estate. The current demolition order is made as per previous CRZ norms, whereas the newer liberal norms intended to add ‘value of economy to India’ and offer ‘employment’ is a thorn on the current judgment. The newer reforms call for liberation, expressing permission for construction in previously NDZ.

As we continue on to fight and reform land to add ‘value of economy to India’, we have to accept that what we set to lose is something that cannot be easily recovered, especially with a monstrosity of concrete structure on the way. A major loss that is to be noted in the current region of the dispute is none other than the mangroves, which plays a huge role in balancing nature. The mangroves have been attributed to bring down the casualties of the natures fury of cyclones, floods, and even tsunamis and have twice the ability to recycle CO2. Currently, of the 13 identified mangrove species in the region, with as much as 3 species being marked as endangered, if now is not the right time to act, we are set to lose out on these natural guard front. With the further 340 some acres of once flourishing mangrove lands in Kochi dwindling down, a major reason is attributed to construction such as International Container Transshipment Terminal and the LNG Terminal and budding resorts.

Conclusion

Construction is a part of a growing economy that can never be stopped. But what can be done is to create sustainable construction plans, coordinating with the norms of the land and in cases like the above, to stay away from No Development Zone. Construction is an art, but encroachment is malice and an evil that must be contained. We stand by our motto of RIGHT construction, be it the construction materials used, or the land for the development of the project.

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