The new notification was piloted by environment minister Harsh Vardhan, but was strongly opposed by some senior members of the cabinet.
New Delhi: Senior members of the union cabinet had expressed strong reservations against the new Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, but it was approved nonetheless Thursday, sources privy to cabinet deliberations told ThePrint.
The ministers, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi were of the view that the new notification — allowing construction in the ecologically-sensitive coastal areas — will be “catastrophic”, one of the sources said.
The notification was piloted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, headed by Dr Harsh Vardhan.
It supersedes the 2011 notification, and allows construction of buildings for residential purposes, schools, hospitals, institutions, offices, public places etc. on the landward side of the existing road, or on the landward side of existing authorised fixed structures. However, no permission for construction of buildings shall be given on landward side of any new roads which are constructed on the seaward side of an existing road, it states.
The new notification allows floor space index (ratio between the built-up area to the area of the land on which the building stands) for construction projects as per current norms in CRZ areas. In the 2011 notification, the floor space index was frozen as per the 1991 Development Control Regulation levels.
What the ministers said
A second source in the government said Finance Minister Jaitley was of the view that no new construction should be allowed near the coast. At best, reconstruction could be allowed in structures that already exist.
“Jaitley said it is not a good legislation,” the source said.
Defence Minister Sitharaman, meanwhile, gave examples of how land in some coastal villages was getting eroded by the sea.
WCD Minister Gandhi too opposed the notification, saying that despite the checks and balances proposed, the new legislation will open up fragile and ecologically-sensitive coastlines for rampant real estate development.
Ministers who supported the notification
The environment minister tried to reassure his cabinet colleagues that the notification was drafted after consulting all stakeholders.
Vardhan said the draft notification was put up on the ministry’s website, inviting comments and suggestions from the public. “The ministry received approximately 3,000 suggestions supporting the new notification,” a source quoted Vardhan as saying.
Among the ministers who supported the new CRZ notification were Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Textiles Minister Smriti Irani.
“Irani said that slum colonies should be made for the poor on the coastline,” a source added.