The Indian Express

 

Head Line: Coastal Regulation Zone: How rules for building along coast have evolved

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/coastal-regulation-zone-how-rules-for-building-along-coast-have-evolved-5726052/

1) Mains Paper I: changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

  • Mains Paper III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Why in news:

  • The Supreme Court last week ordered the demolition, within a month, of five apartment complexes in Maradu municipality in Ernakulam, Kerala, for violating Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.
  • The order came on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA).
  • While the CRZ Rules are made by the Union Environment Ministry, implementation is supposed to be done by state governments through their Coastal Zone Management Authorities.
  • The states are also supposed to frame their own coastal zone management plans in accordance with the central Rules.

The CRZ Rules:

  • CRZ Rules govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea.
  • The Rules, mandated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, were first framed in 1991.
  • They sought to restrict certain kinds of activities, like large constructions, setting up of new industries, storage or disposal of hazardous material, mining, or reclamation and bunding, within a certain distance from the coastline.
  • The basic idea is: because areas immediately next to the sea are extremely delicate, home to many marine and aquatic life forms, both animals and plants, and are also threatened by climate change, they need to be protected against unregulated development.
  • In all CRZ Rules, the regulation zone has been defined as the area up to 500 m from the high-tide line.
  • Several kinds of restrictions apply, depending on criteria such as the population of the area, the ecological sensitivity, the distance from the shore, and whether the area had been designated as a natural park or wildlife zone.
  • Despite several amendments, states found the 1991 Rules to be extremely restrictive.
  • They complained that if applied strictly, the Rules would not allow simple things like building decent homes for people living close to the coast, and carrying out basic developmental works.
  • The 1991 Rules also created hurdles for showpiece industrial and infrastructure projects such as the POSCO steel plant in Odisha and the proposed Navi Mumbai airport in the first decade of the new century.

 Evolution of Rules:

  • The Centre notified fresh CRZ Rules in 2011, which addressed some concerns.
  • An exemption was made for the construction of the Navi Mumbai airport.
  • Projects of the Department of Atomic Energy, which plans to set up nuclear power plants near the coast, were exempted.
  • After even these Rules were found inadequate, however, the Environment Ministry in 2014 set up a six-member committee under then Earth Sciences Secretary Shailesh Nayak to give suggestions for a new set of CRZ Rules. The committee submitted its report in 2015.
  • Simultaneously, the Chennai-based National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management defined a new high-tide line along India’s entire coastline to remove ambiguities.
  • Separately, the Survey of India defined a hazard line along the coasts — to be used mainly for disaster management planning.
  • Based on these and other inputs, the Environment Ministry issued fresh CRZ Rules in December 2018, which removed certain restrictions on building, streamlined the clearance process, and aimed to encourage tourism in coastal areas.

The current situation:

  • The January this year, the government notified new CRZ Rules with the stated objectives of promoting sustainable development and conserving coastal environments.
  • For the so-called CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have been stipulated.
  • In the densely populated rural areas (CRZ-IIIA) with a population density of 2,161 per sq km as per the 2011 Census, the no-development zone is now 50 m from the high-tide level, as against the 200 m stipulated earlier.
  • In the CRZ-IIIB category (rural areas with population density below 2,161 per sq km) continue to have a no-development zone extending up to 200 m from the high-tide line.
  • The new Rules have a no-development zone of 20 m for all islands close to the mainland coast, and for all backwater islands in the mainland.

Cases in Kerala

  • There have been cases of courts in Kerala ordering demolition of resorts or apartments for violating CRZ norms earlier. But stakeholders have either obtained stays, or have got relief in the Supreme Court.
  • In 2014, a Single Bench of Kerala High Court ordered the demolition of a waterfront residential complex of DLF in Kochi.
  • A Division Bench cancelled the demolition order, but fined the builder Rs 1 crore.
  • After KCZMA appealed, the Supreme Court in January 2018 upheld the verdict of the Division Bench.
  • In 2013, the High Court ordered a Rs 350-crore resort in Alappuzha pulled down. The order was stayed by the Supreme Court.
  • Kochi’s Lakeshore Hospital was in the dock for violating CRZ norms. But in 2003, the project got a breather from the High Court, which dismissed a public interest plea that had come after the construction had been completed.
  • Some 26 resorts and hotels on Thiruvananthapuram’s Kovalam beach have been served notices for violations of CRZ Rules. In the Kochi Municipal Corporation area, 35 violations have been reported.

Head Line: Explained: Why Gujarat conducts a census of herbivores in Gir forest

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-why-does-gujarat-conduct-census-on-herbivores-in-gir-forest-5725757/

2) Mains Paper III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Context:

  • Every year, the forest department of Gujarat conducts a census of herbivores in Gir forest and other protected areas, the last abode in the world of Asiatic lions.

Census of herbivores at Gir:

  • The census covers wild ungulates like spotted deer, blue bulls (nilgais), sambars, Indian gazelles (chinkaras), four-horned antelopes (choshinga) and wild boars.
  • A count of ungulates gives the forest department an idea of the availability of prey-base for the top predator lions as well as other predators like leopards, hyenas, wolves etc.
  • Additionally, the forest department also counts Indian langurs as well as peafowl.
  • Wild ungulates and langurs are the main prey of Asiatic lions, the endangered big cat species whose only wild population in the world is surviving in 22,000 square kilometre area, known as greater Gir area and spread across Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

 Why in summer?

  • During summer, foliage is reduced to its minimum levels in dry and deciduous tropical forests like Gir.
  • Such a forest affords the best visibility and by extension, opportunities to spot maximum number of wild animals in the forest.
  • During this time of the year, availability of surface water in Gir goes down significantly. Consequently, wild animals concentrate around water points, more than 450 of them artificial, and filled up by the forest department.
  • These water points are mainly located along forest tracks and thus makes it easy for forest staff to access areas with a higher concentration of wild animals.
  • Forest department divides the Gir forest in generally 19 routes and forest divisions for the purpose of the census.
  • Teams transact routes thrice — morning, afternoon and evening, and mainly remain dependent on direct sighting of animals.
  • The field trips are conducted for two days for collecting sample data. Results are announced after analysing data.

 Why is census of herbivores in Gir forest important?

  • A count of ungulates gives the forest department an idea of the availability of prey-base for the top predator lions as well as other predators like leopards, hyenas, wolves etc.
  • Such a count helps the forest department to notice any changes in the food availability for lions and also indicates the health of the forest in general and of fauna in particular.
  • A strong base of ungulates can reduce depredation of livestock by lions within Gir forest as well as on the periphery of the forest and thus can reduce the man-animal conflict.
  • Incidentally, Gujarat government had argued against translocation of Asiatic lions to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh stating prey-base in that sanctuary needed to be studied more rigorously.

What has been the herbivore population trend in recent years?

  • Since 1974, the population of herbivorous in Gir forest has been on the rise.
  • In 2013, the population of ungulates was estimated to be 1,26,893 or 76.49 animals per square kilometres.
  • That translates to 8000 kg of biomass available to carnivorous, very close to the levels in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
  • The population of ungulates was 1,07,172 in 2010. Incidentally, lion census is due in May next year.

 

Head Line: If food prices rise

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/food-pries-inflation-lok-sabha-elections-5725933/

3) Mains Paper III: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

Context:

  • For 32 months running (from September 2016 to April 2019), consumer food inflation has been trailing general retail inflation.

Background:

  • To understand its significance, rewind to the preceding 32 months (from January 2014 to August 2019), when in as many as 25 months the annual increase in food prices exceeded overall consumer inflation.
  • Food prices aren’t pinching as before and have also not been a hot-button issue in the current Lok Sabha elections — unlike in 2014, when they were one of the key reasons for the then Congress-led ruling alliance’s rout.
  • Bringing down retail food inflation from near double-digit to low single digit levels — even negative in many months — has, indeed, been a signal achievement of the NDA government.

Inflation trends and its reasons:

  • However, it hasn’t been an unmixed blessing.
  • While consumers have benefitted, the same cannot be said about farmers, for whom flat or falling prices of food and other agri produce have spelled disaster.
  • Meanwhile, there are also signs of a trend reversal.
  • The last couple of months have seen prices of a host of farm commodities — from coarse grains, cattlefeed ingredients and cotton to tomatoes and seasonal vegetables — going up significantly.
  • Even milk and sugar are beginning to shake off a prolonged bear phase.
  • The immediate trigger for this seems to be drought in large parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • But there could be structural reasons as well.

Adverse impact on farmers:

  • It is not difficult to believe that sustained low produce realisations have broken the backs of many farmers, leading them to cut down crop acreages or underfeed their cattle.
  • These are bound to impact yields and supply at some point. In that case, a normal monsoon alone, as forecast by the Met Department, may not be enough.
  • Farmers aren’t going to ramp up output overnight, just as insufficiently nourished bovines will take time to calve and produce close to their genetic potential.
  • If structural supply constraints combine with a not-so-great monsoon, the result may well be a return of food inflation.

 Way forward:

  • That, on the face of it, may not be good news for the next government.
  • The mistake it should avoid is to clamp the usual restrictions on exports, internal trade and stocking, even while allowing unlimited imports at zero duty.
  • On the contrary, this is the time to scrap the Essential Commodities Act and laws allowing agricultural produce trade only in government-controlled wholesale mandis.
  • The current food inflation, if at all, is a necessary price correction that will help restore farmer confidence.
  • Improved price realisations would also create an environment to phase out wasteful government spending, whether through market-distorting minimum support price procurement operations or under-pricing of fertilisers, water and electricity.

Farmers deserve remunerative prices, not handouts

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