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New CRZ draft by Ministry of Environment to adversely affect fishermen

KOLKATA: The draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2018, released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) will have an adverse impact on the fisherfolk community in the state, feel the environmentalists.
According to the environment experts, the draft has potential to change the way coastal stretches in India are governed. It also advocates the further opening of the coastal natural resources to corporate and business houses as it proposed to develop tourism in the ecologically sensitive areas. India's coastline runs over a stretch of 7,500 km.
Various organisations of fishermen in the state have already opposed the move by the Centre. The National Fish Workers' Forum and Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum have decided to write a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests urging them not to implement the draft as it would affect the small scale fishermen.
The organisations also claimed that the draft has opened up fragile inter-tidal areas to real estate agents and it will also favour large-scale industry at the cost of fishing communities.
A major change in the new draft pertains to the CRZ limits on land along "tidal influenced water bodies". The proposed limit has been reduced from 100 m to 50 m or the width of the creek, whichever is less.
The Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF) organised a two-day seminar in the state on 6 and 7 May in collaboration with DISHA, which was attended by fishing community representatives from Bengal and Andhra Pradesh along with social activists and representatives from organisations like Dakshin Foundation, LIFE and PSA.
The workshop considered the
history of preparation, publication, contents and implementation of successive CRZs like CRZ 1991 and CRZ 2011 as well as the preparation, publication and contents of Draft CRZ 2018.
The workshop also considered the scientific, environmental and social needs for conservation of the coast and coastal resources and the rights of small and traditional fishing communities. The small and traditional fishing communities are by far the largest primary stakeholders and natural custodians of our coastal resources.
"The draft notification has misused the power conferred on the ministry. The Environment Protection Act of 1986, under its section 3, provides the Center with the provision to take measures 'for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution '. But the Centre has used it to further open up the coast for exploitation and plunder by business and corporate houses," Debasis Shyamal, secretary of the National Fish Workers' Forum said.
He added that the small and traditional coastal fishing communities, who are by far the largest stakeholders and natural custodians of our coastal resources, were not consulted by the ministry before rolling out the new draft. Fishermen organisations demanded that a law must be promulgated that will ensure the livelihood of the fishermen and also maintain the ecological balance of the coastal areas.
DMF general-secretary Milan Das said: "The scale of the dilutions in the draft notification makes it more of an instructional manual for coastal development than a tool to protect the environment and the fishing communities."
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