The Indian coast, which measures 7,516 km and the only coastal states receive about 560 million people, according to data from the 2011 census. Along the coast live several vulnerable communities that depend on the sea and the shore for their livelihood. The law also recognizes the traditional rights of the coast. Supported by order of the Supreme Court, environmentalists have succeeded in recent years, forcing the government to regulate the coast and to develop rules that, when applied in spirit, protect this ecosystem sensitive against development and degenerative damage.
But despite years of activism and judicial pronouncements, governments continue to act very opaque about coastal regulations. Central and state governments have resisted sharing information about important regulatory mechanisms and the changes that take them periodically. Many of these changes are made in direct contradiction with the original legislation and are in the form of condontion of unbridled construction and industrial violations of retrospective permits. In some cases, as in Tamil Nadu, the government in order to conceal crucial public opinion coastal plans in order to facilitate invasions in streams and estuaries. These invasions have been one of the reasons for the floods that hit Chennai in December 2015.
The effects of an operation of this type non-transparent could cause incalculable damage to the coast, as we have seen in the case of Pondicherry. A port project that was launched despite opposition in the 1980s has led to severe coastal erosion, Pondicherry’s famous beach completely disappear in a few years. Today, what was once a beautiful sandy beach was replaced by breakwaters to contain erosion.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Union is no better, if not worse, than the state governments. The Center has developed a new legal framework to protect the coast. Call for notification of the coastal zone control in 2017, which will replace the notification of coastal zone regulation 2011. Its contents have not been made publicly available. The wording has been made with the public consultation close to zero, even if it is about the lives of about 560 million people. Activists are still struggling to get the coordinates of the high tide Line, a key element in the implementation of the coastal regulation zone.
Although the government seems to believe that the denial of transparency could help achieve short-term economic benefits through the use of coastal resources, this only leads to long-term irreversible damage to India’s environmental interests. That is why the Supreme Court in 1995 stated:
“To tolerate violation of the laws [of the environment] is worse than not promulgating the legislation at all …. The continued tolerance of such violations of the law not only renders irrefutable legal provisions, but such tolerance by the authorities in charge Of law enforcement fosters illegality and means of adoption that can not or should not be tolerated in a civilized society. ”
India’s new littoral rules were promulgated in confidence and facilitated further commercialization.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Union will not disclose the details of India’s high tide line, facing this important information as a business asset.
Vinita Govindarajan reports how Tamil Nadu concealed the crucial coastal plan to allow intrusion of a stream near Madras.