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Thursday, 25 April, 2019, 15 : 58 PM [IST]

CRZ Notification 2018 - What’s in store for Tourism?

Among major announcements of the Central government towards removing the bottlenecks and unlock the tourism potential of Incredible India in recent years is the decision to revise the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2011 and replace it with a new notification – CRZ 2018. The new notification tried to relax and simplify the regulatory framework pertaining to infrastructure development, openness to various activities including tourism, in coastal areas in the country. Although the mainstream tourism industry is yet to take note of the new notification and react to it, P Krishna Kumar made an endeavour to understand it closely by talking to diverse observers.

It’s a shame we were not able to develop our beaches. We have thrown the opportunity away,” remarked PRS Oberoi, one of the doyens of the hotel industry in India while participating in an industry conclave in Delhi. He termed 200 metre set back as per the CRZ is a ‘great handicap’ from realising the vast tourism potential in the West and East coast of India. It’s an old story now. The government has come up with new CRZ Notification 2018, replacing the 2011 notification, which considered many of the challenges faced by tourism industry to prescribe more liberalised CRZ order.

Even the release followed the announcement of the new notification said it unequivocally: ‘Tourism has been one of the greatest creators of livelihood and jobs. The new Notification will boost tourism in terms of more activities, more infrastructure and more opportunities and will certainly go a long way in creating employment opportunities in various aspects of tourism. This will also give boost to people, desirous of seeing and enjoying the beauty of the mighty seas.’ By opening up the coastline for enhanced activities, etc. the government intends to generate more employment and thus provide better livelihood opportunities and value to the overall economy of the country.

Salient features
(i) Allowing FSI as per current norms in CRZ areas:
As per CRZ, 2011 Notification, for CRZ-II (Urban) areas, Floor Space Index (FSI) or the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) had been frozen as per 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels. In the CRZ, 2018 Notification, it has been decided to de-freeze the same and permit FSI for construction projects, as prevailing on the date of the new Notification. This will enable redevelopment of these areas to meet the emerging needs.

(ii) Densely populated rural areas to be afforded greater opportunity for development:
For CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have now been stipulated as below:

(a) CRZ-III A -
These are densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2161 per square kilometre as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall have a No Development Zone (NDZ) of 50 meters from the HTL as against 200 meters from the High Tide Line stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011 since such areas have similar characteristics as urban areas.

(b) CRZ-III B -
Rural areas with population density of below 2161 per square kilometre as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall continue to have an NDZ of 200 meters from the HTL.

(iii) Tourism infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted:
Temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. have now been permitted in Beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in the “No Development Zone” (NDZ) of the CRZ-III areas as per the Notification. However, a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL should be maintained for setting up of such facilities.

(iv) CRZ Clearances streamlined:
The procedure for CRZ clearances has been streamlined. Only such projects/activities, which are located in the CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward) shall be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level with necessary guidance.

(v) A No Development Zone (NDZ)
of 20 meters has been stipulated for all Islands: For islands close to the main land coast and for all Backwater Islands in the main land, in wake of space limitations and unique geography of such regions, bringing uniformity in treatment of such regions, NDZ of 20 m has been stipulated.

(vi) All Ecologically Sensitive Areas have been accorded special importance:
Specific guidelines related to their conservation and management plans have been drawn up as a part of the CRZ Notification.

(vii) Pollution abatement has been accorded special focus:
In order to address pollution in Coastal areas treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards.

(viii) Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.

Liberal at First Sight
The necessity for revision of CRZ 2011 has been considered because of the long clamour for more relaxed regime from the tourism and real estate sector in the country. Despite having over 7,000 km of coastline, India has not been able to optimise the potential for tourism and other developments because of stringent CRZ rules. The tourism industry has been citing how other destinations in South and SE Asia are using their coastline for beach tourism to both create livelihood opportunities for people and thereby overall economic prosperity. Various coastal states have been harping on more liberal regime to open up islands for tourism development for long.

The notification permits tourism activities even in highly eco-sensitive areas. The decision
to further segregate CRZ-III into CRZ -IIIA and IIIB has been welcomed by the industry as it will permit infrastructure development in densely populated rural areas with population of 2,1,61 per sqkm with a NDZ ( No Development Zone) of 50 m from High Tide Line (HTL) as against 200 m in the 2011 notification. The NDZ for all the islands close to coasts as well as in the Backwaters has been fixed by 20m as per the new notification. The new notification also proposes to steamline all clearances to make permissions faster.

“It will be very helpful for businesses and people living close to the coastline,” said Riaz Ahmed, Managing Director, Abad Hotels & Resorts, a Kerala based chain. Especially in a State like Kerala where land is scarce and population density is high both in the urban and rural areas close to the coast and backwaters, the notification will give a lot of relief to people. “Even ordinary people are not able to build houses or add rooms to their existing houses due to NDZ in areas close to coastline or backwaters,” he said. Tourism being the mainstay of Kerala economy, the new notification will be a big boost to it. However, areas which would benefit from the new CRZ has to be identified through proper mapping by the authorities,

However, there are people who believe that the new notification wouldn’t bring any substantial benefit in terms of unlocking the tourism potential in the coastal belt of India. By proposing a density of population of the area for development, they feel that the government has again allowed the benefit from percolating to larger areas. “It’s only going to benefit .01% of India’s coastline,” said Arjun Sharma, Managing Director, Select Group of Hotels. The present notification might only help few areas in the urban areas close to the coastline. Rather than building new infrastructure, it might only help in regularising the existing ones in most of these areas, he added. He was basing his argument on the clause of population density of 2,161 per sq km for 20m HTL reduction allowed in the new notification.

But, if a senior Tourism Ministry is to be believed, the intention was not to open up all coastal areas, but “designated” stretches identified by States where they see potential to be developed for tourism. “The intention was not to apply the same in the same way across the country,” he said. “Population limit is there, identified stretches are there, and activities are there. This is a more holistic model. If it works well, we can go back and extend it to more destinations,” said Suman Billa, Joint Secretary – Tourism, Government of India.

Need for Caution
While the recommendations are positive and helpful to unlock the potential of tourism along the coastline of India, people who are concerned with responsible and sustainable tourism want to approach it cautiously. Jose Dominic, MD & CEO of CGH Earth, insists for “quality enforcement” to make the development sustainable in the long run. Even a 1000 mtr set back from the HTL would not help if enforcement is not stringent, he says. “This is the situation here. Those countries which have opened up their beaches have rigorous enforcement in place,” he added. Waste management is quite critical with the new notification, also there needs to regulations on hi-rises, Dominic added.

“Though I am a pro-development person, any relaxation on CRZ is a red flag. We need to be on top of the tourism nations. But that cannot happen at the expense of environment,” said CB Ramkumar, Owner, Our Native Village, Bengaluru and Board Member of Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). He said that when governments have development agenda to lift people out of poverty, the logical question is whether there will be people without the environment. “Today, it is scientifically proven that people and environment are not independent but co-dependent. Therefore, we have to look at laws and rules not just from the development lens alone any more when the world is facing extreme effects of climate change,” he cautioned. Bringing development to 20 m of HTL, he said, serves only commercial interests and nothing else. Changing guidelines and regulations on the pressure of few lobbying groups will have disastrous effects on sustainability in the long run, he added.
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