With a long coastline stretching to 720 kilometres, Maharashtra has been without a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) — which regulates permissible construction and other aspects in coastal areas — for more than a month now. This has stalled all new sea-front projects across the state, increasing the number of proposals awaiting environment clearance to about 50 from close to zero. The last CZMP expired on January 31 after several extensions over the past two years, and the new plan, which has been under preparation for almost four years, is yet to be finalised.
The state environment department has sent a request to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests seeking another extension to the old CZMP till the new maps are ready. However, in the meanwhile, it has been unable to hold even a single meeting of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA). The last meeting was held on January 16.
The state environment department had until now been holding about two meetings of the MCZMA every month from May, when the Union government constituted a fresh authority to clear pending projects at a break-neck speed. From 117 proposals in May, the MCZMA had been able to bring down the pendency to almost zero by December-January. However, in the absence of a CZMP, pendency has once again inched up to about 50, environment department officials said.
A senior official from the state environment department said an agency in Chennai is in the process of validating the high-tide line for the new CZMP.
“The agency will submit its report to the state government first, after which we will have to get an approval from the Union government. The entire process will take at least another four months, so we have requested the Union environment ministry to grant us an extension until then,” she said, adding that every week of delay is significantly increasing the number of proposals stuck for a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance.
CRZ refers to the ecologically sensitive area close to the shore where all construction activities are regulated as per a Central government notification. The CZMP classifies CRZ zones depending on their distance from the shore and ecological sensitivity. Every zone specifies the extent and type of construction that can be permitted there.