Planning for vulnerability - The hazards and setbacks in coastal legislation – A report by Dakshin Foundation

Laws pertaining to specific ecosystems and their use made an appearance over the last three decades. This report deals with the hazards and setbacks in coastal legislation.

Planning for vulnerability  The law pertaining to coastal spaces – the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 1991 specifically decides what people can and cannot do on the coastal stretches of the country. This mainly includes where people can live, where establishments can be set up and the nature of activities permissible on the coast.

The basis for each of these regulations is ascribed to certain concerns, principles and concepts and coastal management has seen several shifts and changes in these. The concern around ‘vulnerability’ has seen the emergence of ideas and responses such as introducing ‘setbacks’ for development and establishing ‘hazard lines’. 

The CRZ, 1991 became a subject of intense public debate – beginning as concerns around the massive rehabilitation efforts in the southern Indian states, but thereafter focusing on the inconspicuous reconstructing fragility process of coastal legislation reform that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had initiated in July 2004, just prior to the tsunami. 

The Swaminathan Committee report came up with new ‘scientific’ constructs for a revised legislation. Coming in the wake of the tsunami, the most significant aspect of this review report was that it dropped the earlier system of ‘coastal regulation’ and advocated ‘coastal management’ instead, based on vulnerability of coastal areas to natural hazards. 

This report examines the application of the key concepts related to vulnerability that the Swaminathan report of 2005 and the subsequent draft notifications introduced. The evolution of law is continuous, and it often keeps time with changes in government. The report explains how these ideas around coastal vulnerabilities found their way into the debates on coastal management and the implications of its proposed formulation in legislation.

In doing so, the report also evaluates how government authorities and committees have articulated these concepts and whether the present efforts towards incorporating these ideas into legislation will actually result in enhanced protection for coastal communities and ecosystems. 

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