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Case Study on CRZ

'CRZ violations led to high casualty'

COLACHAL (Tamil Nadu): While Tsunami could not have been avoided, death and destruction could have been minimised if the Central and Coastal states had taken heed to the coastal Zone Regulations Act notification of 1991 (CRZ) under the Environment Protection Act-1986, say experts and well-meaning NGO leaders.

The CRZ had sought to regularise the population and commercial pressure on the active playzone of the sea waves.

The coast was divided in to four zones, the first the islands and estuaries which are to be left alone except for national security measures, the second was 200 metres from the shore which should be free for the waves, the third and fourth measuring up to 500 metres were marked "no development" zone.

The CRZ, considering the population pressure along the coast, had conceded that the fisherfolks' shelter and settlements in the "no development zone" may be allowed to exist if they are built long before the CRZ came in to existence.

"What followed was stark violation of the well-meant law by none other than the governments", pointed out National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) Chairman Fr Thomas Kocherry. NFF was the only NGO that had all through been asking for the strict implementation of the CRZ.

"Throughout the sea coast on the west and east coast of the country, wanton construction was allowed", he said. This was hampering the fishing activities and tourism prospects.

The worst of all was the aquaculture. The NGOs including NFF moved the Supreme Court and we got two favourable orders asking the Central Government to stop aquaculture and implement CRZ. But nothing happened", bemoaned Fr Kocherry.

He said even allowing the fact that India is overpopualated and coastal belt is more so, the CRZ could have been implemented with far less liability than rebuilding the destroyed villages today.

The priest now involved in relief operations in Manavala Kurichi of Kanyakumari district said the human casualty in Alappad of Kollam in Kerala and Kanyakumari coast was so high because the settlements are pretty close to the shore.

Colachal to Kanayakumari sangamam, for instance, the houses and hutments are within 200 metres, in some instances 100 metres, of the shore.

In some places like Haripad-Alappuzha route of southern Kerala waves are lapping every moment the rear walls of the array of houses built just on the shore. "Thank Nature the mishaps are few and far between", said Fr Kocherry.

The Centre for Earth Sciences Studies (CESS) had undertaken a study of the disaster-hit Alappad panchayat of Kollam three years ago.

The study, said Dr N P Kurian of the Marine Sciences division, submitted to the pancyayat and to the state government sketched an integrated coastal management system.

The thrust of it all is eco-friendly measures to reduce the impact of sudden seawaves, such as, bringing the houses away from the 200 metre zone and building reef and reinforcing the beaches with sands.

There are areas where mangroves help reduce the impact of giant waves at times. But the study met the fate of several such attempts wasted.

Volunteers working in Kollam coastal Karunagappally villages and Kanyakumari coasts agree that coastal regulations would have brought down the impact of death and destruction even if we had no access to the Tsunami warning system. "Look", said Suvarna Dharamrajan working with the NGO relief network at Colachal, "The waves and the destroyed houses yonder have hardly 100 metre gulf. How do you think the lives could be saved?" he asked in Tamil.