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NGT to hear pleas challenging CRZ 2019 notification, seeks government’s reply

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 07-02-2023 Gerard de Souza

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has sought responses from the ministry of environment forests and climate change (MoEF&CC) on a petition challenging provisions of the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) 2019 that has been filed by Goa based environmental activists Goa Foundation.

“The matter requires in depth consideration as we have to compare the amendments which have been brought about in CRZ notification, 2019 compared to the earlier notifications and determine how far they are likely to damage the ecology. Therefore, we admit this application,” the NGT bench of Dinesh Kumar Singh and Dr Vijay Kulkarni observed while asking the respondents which included the MoEF&CC, the Goa government and other central and state agencies to file their reply within four weeks.

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The matter reached the NGT after the Bombay high court decreed that those challenging the CRZ notification in the high court held that the petitions need not be entertained by the high court because the petitioners have “an alternate and efficacious remedy before the National Green Tribunal.”

The Supreme Court too, in a challenge to the Bombay high court’s order ruled that “it is appropriate that the petitioners approach the NGT as observed by the high court.”

Petitions were filed before the Bombay HC by different petitioners both in Mumbai as well as before the Goa bench.

The 2019 edition of the three-decade old coastal regulation notification has made several relaxations to the hitherto strict CRZ notification which mandated a no development zone between 0-200 metres from the high tide line (HTL) along the coast.

Among the provisions of the 2019 notification that have been challenged, includes the reduction of the NDZ (no development zone) along sea-coast is to 50 metres from earlier 200 metres and the CRZ along the rivers is also reduced to 50 metres, which was earlier 100 metres from HTL which the Goa Foundation said was “without any appropriate justification” and was “unacceptable in view of sea level rise and ingress of sea water into coastal areas.”

The activists have also pointed out that temporary tourism facilities have been permitted on the beaches “at a distance of merely 10 metres from the HTL, which would include shacks, toilets, washrooms, walkways, seating arrangement which will permit setting up of tree huts for tourists.

“Earlier sand dunes were given full protection under the CRZ Notifications (1991 & 2011) but now under impugned Notification, the same protects only ‘active’ sand dunes but the ‘active’ has not been defined… which is sure to lead to destruction of the dunes,” the foundation has alleged.

The matter is expected to be heard in the month of March.

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