June 8, 2009
The fourth report on NDTV’s “India’s Dying Beaches” series covers the destruction of a mangrove forest at Mundra, the site of India’s largest private port and Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which covers 60 kilometres of Gujarat’s coastline. 10,000 fisherfolk have lost their livelihoods due to the privatization of coastal property for port and allied developments.
The report highlights the gradual dilution of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), first established in 1989, with 21 ammendments to date, to allow such things as the storage of liquid natural gas (LNG) and petrochemicals within 500 metres of the coastline. Incredibly, the environmental clearance authority for ports was transfered from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to the Ministry of Surface Transport and Shipping – a clear conflict of interest!
The text of the report is found below:
Gujarat’s mangroves under threat
Monday, June 08, 2009, (Mundra)
Gujarat, the state which has India’s longest coastline is home to one of the country’s largest ports and special economic zone. One which will occupy over 60 kms of the coast.
This is the stark reality of what is happening here in Gujarat, at one of India’s largest ports. Hundreds and hundreds of mangroves hacked with complete disregard and apathy in a zone that is high eco-sensitive and protected.
The strip of land was originally part of the port plan but later dropped because of mangroves. A crucial cover that protects the coast from erosion and storms.
An example of how much of the development on our coasts takes place haphazardly. Unlike in the West where port projects are based on environment studies and rights of coastal communities is respected.
Ironically, 20 years ago India came out with forward looking policy — the Coastal Regulation Zones or CRZs.
In 1989, CRZ was introduced before UN’s Climate Change Convention, but since then the CRZ policy has undergone 21 changes effectively diluting it.
So, now rural land 200 metre from the sea is no longer a no-development zone. Now, storage facilities for LNG and petrochemicals are allowed.
Then the environmental clearance authority for ports was transferred from the Ministry of Forests to the Ministry of Surface Transport and Shipping.
As a result regulator and regulated became one.
A conflict of interest ensued since the regulator and the regulated became the same. At Mundra port a top government official had warned against damage to the coast.
A 2006 report used satellite pictures to issue this warning:
The Adani Private Port at Mundra and other projects pose a threat to the neighbouring mangroves. Controversy regarding the gradual and smooth destruction of mangroves near Mundra was raised again and again. The industrial development.. has already caused serious damage and the process of degradation continues by intentional and unintentional approach of the industries,” wrote H S Singh, former Chief Conservator of Forests (Research), Gujarat.
“They first blocked the creek, stopped the water from flowing in. The mangroves died and they dumped dredged sand on it. Following which, they tell the government the land is ‘unsurveyed wasteland’, give it to us,” said Bharat Patel, Marine Environmentalist.
Allegations, the Adani group has denied in the past.
But the worst hit over 10,000 fishermen. Today with coastal belt sold to the port their livelihood is gone.
“We kill fish, we eat fish. Fish is our only source of livelihood. We want the sea and the shore. Nothing else,” said Haroon Siddique, fisherman.
“The industrialists are happy. But one day the government will have to think about us. We will fight till death. We won’t leave them,” said Ibrahim Majalia, fisherman.
Core of that battle perhaps, already lost.