Definition of Regulation Zone
In all CRZ Rules, regulation zone has been defined as the area up to 500 m from the high-tide line. Several kinds of restrictions apply, depending on criteria such as population, ecological sensitivity, distance from shore, etc.
While the CRZ Rules are made by the Union Environment Ministry, implementation is supposed to be done by state governments through their Coastal Zone Management Authorities. The states are also supposed to frame their own coastal zone management plans in accordance with the central Rules.
The CRZ Rules, 1991
CRZ Rules govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea. The Rules, mandated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, were first framed in 1991. The basic idea is: because areas immediately next to the sea are extremely delicate, home to many marine and aquatic life forms, both animals and plants, and are also threatened by climate change, they need to be protected against unregulated development.
Need to amend 1991 rules
Despite several amendments, states found the 1991 Rules to be extremely restrictive. They complained that if applied strictly, the Rules would not allow simple things like building decent homes for people living close to the coast, and carrying out basic developmental works. The 1991 Rules also created hurdles for industrial and infrastructure projects such as the POSCO steel plant in Odisha and the proposed Navi Mumbai airport in the first decade of the new century.
Evolution of Rules
The Centre notified fresh CRZ Rules in 2011, which addressed some concerns. An exemption was made for the construction of the Navi Mumbai airport. (The POSCO project had failed to take off due to other reasons.) Projects of the Department of Atomic Energy, which plans to set up nuclear power plants near the coast, were exempted.
However, these rules were also found inadequate.
The Environment Ministry issued fresh CRZ Rules in December 2018, which removed certain restrictions on building, streamlined the clearance process, and aimed to encourage tourism in coastal areas.
The current situation
In January this year, the government notified new CRZ Rules.For the so-called CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have been stipulated. In the densely populated rural areas (CRZ-IIIA) with a population density of 2,161 per sq km as per the 2011 Census, the no-development zone is now 50 m from the high-tide level, as against the 200 m stipulated earlier. In the CRZ-IIIB category (rural areas with population density below 2,161 per sq km) continue to have a no-development zone extending up to 200 m from the high-tide line.
The new Rules have a no-development zone of 20 m for all islands close to the mainland coast, and for all backwater islands in the mainland.