The Maharashtra government will soon form a special task force to monitor coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) violations along the coastline of the state. However, it will not have any power to initiate action against the violations.
Valsa Nair Singh, environment secretary, Maharashtra government, says, the main role of the task force will be to identify the violations along the 720-km coastline and “verify complaints received about such violations”.
After the verification, the complaints would be forwarded to Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority for necessary action, Singh adds. The decision to form the task force comes after the central government revised the CRZ notification to monitor developments along the coasts.
The task force, which will be formed within a couple of weeks, will operate in Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Mumbai. It will be headed by the collector of respective district and have officials from the departments of revenue, police, town planning, pollution control board, maritime board, and two representatives from reputed non-profits. In Mumbai, municipal commissioner will head the task force.
The state government has roped in various agencies to prepare a coastal zone management plan. Chennai-based Institute of Ocean Management (Anna University) and Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Earth Science Studies have been entrusted with tracking the coastal stretches in Raigad and Thane districts respectively. These agencies will also prepare digital maps of the coastal stretch in these districts. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has been given the responsibility of preparing the digital map of coastline of the city. Once ready, the digital maps will be used as reference and could be compared with satellite images in case of CRZ violations, especially when the existing Coastal Zone Management Plan is over a decade old and encroachments, mangrove hacking and large-scale sand excavation is not being taken into account.
The process of revising the management plan has already started and any proposal for reclassification of CRZ areas will not be considered until new plan is finalised and approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
With this, the proposals for reclassification of salt pan lands in Maharashtra have also been put on the back burner. The state had received several applications for reclassification of salt pan lands to CRZ II (these areas comprise of land, close to or on the shoreline, where development works have been done) as salt-related activities are no longer carried out on certain salt pans in Mumbai. One of such proposals is about a 600-hectare salt pan land in Vasai, situated on the outskirts of Mumbai, where affordable housing has been proposed.
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