February 2014

Thousands of ‘land modifications’ spotted along Vembanad Lake

Over 10,000 instances of “land modifications,” the majority of which are deemed to be violations of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) guidelines, have been identified along the banks of the Vembanad Lake.

The Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority handed over an indicative list of land modifications to the representatives of 38 local bodies which were located along the banks of the lake in the districts of Ernakulam, Kottayam and Alappuzha. The local bodies included the Kochi Corporation, a few municipalities and panchayats.

The local bodies have been asked to crosscheck the findings of the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), Thiruvananthapuram, which drew up the indicative list and to look for other violations which might have escaped the scrutiny.

The land modifications were mostly in the form of reclamation of wetlands, constructions on the CRZ area and reclamation and construction in the highly sensitive coastal ecosystem, which would impact the ecology of the region in a big way.

The CESS drew up the indicative list of violations based on images from Google maps. The centre made use of the high resolution images from Google map and its historical images to track the changes that have taken place in the ecologically important coastal belt.

Massive apartment and commercial complexes, industrial units, resorts, star hotels and restaurants, hospitals and individual residential units have come up over the years along the coast, throwing to the winds the guidelines and restrictions on land use as prescribed in the CRZ notification. The indicative list provided to the local bodies was complete with the latitude and longitude of the area and a physical map of the panchayat. The local bodies were asked to physically crosscheck the land modifications as identified by the CESS and submit its report to the Local Self-Government Department, sources said.

WB plans to promote Village Tourism in areas around Digha

 The West Bengal (WB) government is planning to promote Village Tourism beyond Digha to attract domestic and foreign tourists, as per a TOI report. The Chief Minister's Office (CMO) and State Tourism Department has directed the local administration and Digha Sankarpur Development Authority (DSDA) to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for a Village Tourism project surrounding Digha.

The purpose is to set up eco-friendly Rural Tourism clusters in coastal villages of Ramnagar I block surrounding Digha under the PPP model. These clusters will have tents and small mud cottages with roofs of straw. Modern amenities, including western toilets and showers, will be a bonus for these huts. Since the area falls within the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), no concrete construction will be permitted there.

The target area is Padima I and villages like Chandpur and Badhia. The project aims to take tourists to spots beyond Digha like the pristine Tajpur beach, which got electricity only a few months ago. CRZ rules will be strictly enforced in Tajpur. “We have started working on the DPR and hope to submit it soon,” said Tamojit Chakraborty, BDO, Ramnagar I. A survey has already been conducted.

The Rs 25 crore project aims at giving something new to tourists, said Soumen Pal, CEO, DSDA. DSDA is offering assistance to the local administration in preparing the DPR. Tourists can experience authentic village culture, watch local craftsmen and women make conch shells, wall-hangings, lampshades and bangles from seashells, enjoy the beauty of 'jhau'or tamarisk forests and beaches.

CRZ clearance for Adyar creek eco-restoration

 Eco-restoration of Adyar creek and estuary, on 300 acres, is likely to take off soon.

Stipulating four conditions, the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has recommended coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance for the project.

According to officials, the expert appraisal committee had instructed the government to trap all the sewage outfalls presently connected to Adyar river/creek and divert it to the existing sewage network before opening the sand bar.

The committee has also directed that all sewage networks should be eventually diverted to the sewerage treatment plant for final treatment.

MoEF has stipulated no sewage effluent or industrial effluent should be allowed to enter Adyar creek/river within the project area as committed, said an official.

MoEF has also told the authorities there should not be construction of any permanent structure within the project area and only activities permissible under CRZ Notification, 2011, should be carried out.

Besides, the project proponent — Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust — has been asked to obtain approval from the Chennai Corporation for accepting the excavated soil and debris from the choked Adyar creek.

The clearance has been granted keeping with the spirit of the Tamil Nadu State CZMA recommendation and the MoEF has a word of praise for the good work done in Phase-1 of the project, said the official.

The project proponent had argued they wanted the project to be taken up and completed in one go but the expert appraisal committee was clearly not for opening the sand bar and letting any untreated effluent into the sea. At present, Adyar river and creek receive a large quantity of untreated effluent, said the official.

National Green Tribunal imposes ban, orders strict check on sand mining

 Karishma Goenka
The National Green Tribunal Pune bench on Tuesday directed all collectors and police commissioners in the coastal areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa to henceforth strictly prohibit and monitor the rampant and illegal sand mining on their beaches.

On the basis of photographic evidence presented to the NGT, it raised the issue of heavy sand extraction in the coastal areas of Raigad, Ratnagiri, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Sindhudurg. “We can’t overlook the fact that there is regular abusive use of sand for construction activities, which are growing manifold. The result, prima facie, appears to be that the sand mafias are also increasing in number,” the order stated.

The PIL that led to the order was filed in the Bombay high court by the Mumbai NGO Awaaz Foundation. It was transferred to the NGT last year.

“Consequences of sand mining on our fragile coastal ecosystems are unimaginable. They are destroying not only sensitive marine life but also the buffer between land and sea, allowing saltwater to penetrate our groundwater table. There are places where coconut trees are falling due to loosening of soil. This is a result of disturbance in sand banks,” said Sumaira Abdulali of the Awaaz Foundation.

An environment ministry notification of 2011 banned the mining of sand, rocks or other materials in a Coastal Regulation Zone. The deliberate ignorance with which the issue of sand mining is treated has led to a 10-fold increase in the confidence and stronghold of the sand mafia in these areas. Their political connections have since ensured their survival despite regulatory policies by the government and, on various occasions, they have been responsible for assaulting environmentalists and government officers. Abdulali herself was assaulted twice in 2004 and 2010 for protesting against the same, with one of the assaults landing her in hospital due to a head injury.

Sea of Protests may Sink Coastal Regulation Zone Norms

 By Chandrakanth Viswanath - KOCHI Published: 06th February 2014 08:00 AM Last Updated: 06th February 2014 08:00 AM

The rules for protection of areas demarcated as Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) are all set to run into rough weather with several socio-religious organisations planning to take up cudgels against them.

Build-up around the plight of fisherfolk, this protest movement is modelled on the lines of recent upsurge of settler-farmer sentiments against the Kasturirangan panel report, with the backing of the Church, which has a stake in coastal fishing communities.

But environmentalists believe that a fallout of such an agitation in an election year would be the dilution of the CRZ laws which are already eroding under the influence of ‘big money’.

Cocksure of the malleability of the CRZ laws and toothless nature of the implementation agencies, stakes are quite high when it comes to waterfront real estate and developers in the state, which are engaged in blatant ecological violations.

The realtors and major players in tourism recently pressed the panic button when the Supreme Court brought down the gavel on some of these grave violations and directed demolition of properties.

Soon a memorandum signed by prominent persons, including heads of religious communities and MLAs, was submitted to the government. It said that the impact of strict implementation of the CRZ norms would be disastrous for the state as investments worth `50,000 would be affected. The memorandum even requested the government against giving any report detrimental to the ‘interests of the state’s tourism sector’. The situation in the state is so inane that the influential rich can tweak the law to suit their needs.

Climate change could cause trillions in damage to world's coastal region

 Washington: New research has predicted that coastal regions may face massive increase in damages from storm surge flooding over the course of the 21st century.

According to the study, global average storm surge damages could increase from about 10 to 40 billion dollars per year today to up to 100,000 dollars billion per year by the end of century, if no adaptation action is taken.

The study, led by the Berlin-based think-tank Global Climate Forum (GCF) and involving the University of Southampton, presents, for the first time, comprehensive global simulation results on future flood damages to buildings and infrastructure in coastal flood plains.

Drastic increases in these damages are expected due to both rising sea levels and population and economic growth in the coastal zone.

Asia and Africa may be particularly hard hit because of their rapidly growing coastal mega-cities, such as Shanghai, Manila and Lagos.

"If we ignore this problem, the consequences will be dramatic," Jochen Hinkel from GCF and the study's lead author, said.

In 2100, up to 600 million people (around 5 percent of the global population) could be affected by coastal flooding if no adaptation measures are put in place.

"Countries need to take action and invest in coastal protection measures, such as building or raising dikes, amongst other options," Hinkel said.

With such protection measures, the projected damages could be reduced to below 80 billion dollars per year during the 21st century.

The researchers found that an investment level of 10 to 70 billion dollars per year could achieve such a reduction.

Prompt action is needed most in Asia and Africa where, today, large parts of the coastal population are already affected by storm surge flooding.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Meet Today to Find Solution to Vizag Sea Surge

 Waking from its deep slumber almost a month after coastal erosion was noticed along the RK Beach, sending shivers down the spines of Vizagites with the seawaters chewing away the footpath at Beach Road Saturday, the government has decided to convene a meeting with all stakeholders to find a permanent solution and ensure safety of the public and structures along the beach.

Led by collector Solomon Arokiaraj, a meeting will be held with the authorities of district administration, GVMC, VUDA, Visakhapatnam Port Trust, Dredging Corporation of India, experts from Andhra University and National Institute of Oceanography in the city Monday.

Investments and infrastructure minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, who visited the RK Beach here Sunday, reviewed the situation with GVMC commissioner MV Satyanarayana and VUDA vice-chairman N Yuvaraj apart from other officials. They were told to find out the measures taken in Goa and Mumbai when similar situations arose.

“The officials of GVMC and VUDA are citing different reasons for beach erosion. But then, oceanography is a technical subject and finding the exact solution for erosion without studying the causes is nearly impossible. Hence, the officials have been told to consult experts and take their views before taking up any work to prevent further damage along the entire beach,” he added.

Srinivasa Rao pointed out that the erosion was occurring at different places along the beach including RK Beach, Rushikonda, Yarada and Kailasagiri. When asked if violation of Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms was a reason, he said the officials were citing many reasons ranging from constructions along the beach in violation of CRZ norms to Port expansion work. But, any conclusion would be drawn only after a detailed study is conducted.

Remedial measures initiated to check beach erosion

After four days of surge of the sea and erosion of the beach creating a hazardous situation on the beach road near the Kursura Submarine Museum, remedial steps have been taken up.

Right from Saturday night, boulders are being dumped by the GVMC and the VUDA at the site of erosion caused by the surge of the sea. The process continued till late on Sunday evening. Boulders are being brought from Endada area and Port area to meet the contingency.

“Because of the remedial measures taken, we got a breather,” said Municipal Commissioner M.V. Satyanarayana said on Sunday evening. “This will give us sometime, up to two, three months, to consider permanent measures and take them up,” he said.

The views of experts at a meeting to be convened by the district Collector will be consolidated before the next phase of action.

Minister’s visit