NGT directs Tamil Nadu to include fishers’ housing as part of coast plan

CHENNAI: In a major victory for fishermen, the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) to correct the ‘incomplete’ draft Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) incorporating long-term housing plans for coastal communities as per the guidelines prescribed in the CRZ Notification, 2019.

The order was passed by the green bench, comprising of judicial member Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana and expert member K Satyagopal, while disposing of a petition filed by S Palayam, an artisanal fisherman from Urur Kuppam in Besant Nagar. The guidelines mandate states and union territories to prepare detailed plans for long-term housing needs of fishers living along the coast, in view of expansion and other needs, providing basic services including sanitation, safety and disaster preparedness.

However, the draft CZMP maps recently published by the state government on the Department of Environment’s website for public hearing omitted this crucial aspect. This was not the first time as the CZMPs prepared under CRZ Notification, 2011, were also incomplete with similar omissions. The high court and the NGT had previously directed the TNSCZMA to correct the maps, but no steps were taken. TNIE had published reports regarding these discrepancies.

Based on Palayam’s petition, the NGT has now directed the respondents (TNSCZMA and state government) to incorporate the long-term housing needs of fishermen in the CZMPs before they publish the final notification.

In the petition, Palayam said fishers living on the coast are most vulnerable to the rising sea level, other climate change-induced threats, changing land use in coastal areas, etc. “This requirement is fundamental and essential for the protection and continued sustenance of fishers on the coast. The respondents have completely failed to see the importance of these plans for the fishers in the state. These plans have to be scientifically prepared in consultation with the fishermen. Till date no steps have been taken in this regard,” he alleged.

“These are not errors to be pointed out at the time of public hearing. This is a case where long-term housing plans for fishers as required by the notification are completely absent in the draft CZMP and land use plan. This has to be rectified by marking long-term housing plans in the draft CZMP and land use plan and then placing the complete draft CZMPs and land use plan for public consultation. Only then can errors in the long-term plans, if any, be pointed out,” Palayam said.

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