The Supreme Court, ordered to remove all the structures which were built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone within the prohibited area of CRZ Category in Maradu Municipality of Ernakulam District in Kerala.

About the Issue 

  • The order came on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA).
  • SC noted that when the construction has been raised by the builders in the matters, the area was within CRZ-III.
  • With respect to CRZ-III, the area of 200 meters from the High Tide Line is no development zone. Therefore, No construction shall be permitted within this zone except for repairs of the authorized structures not exceeding existing FSI.
  • The bench also took judicial notice of the floods faced by the state last year and observed that it had taken place 'due to such unbridled construction activities resulting into colossal loss of human life and property'.
  • SC observed that the construction activities in the notified CRZ areas can be permitted only in consultation with and concurrence of the Coastal Zone Management Authority.

About CRZ : Purpose, Need & Features

  • The coastal zone is a transition area between marine and territorial zones. It includes shore ecosystems, wetland ecosystems, mangrove ecosystems, mudflat ecosystems, seagrass ecosystems, salt marsh ecosystems, and seaweed ecosystems.
  • CRZ Rules thus, govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea.
  • They seek 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: As areas immediately next to the sea are extremely delicate, home to many marines and aquatic life forms, 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.


The coastal areas have been classified into four categories—CRZ-I, CRZ-II, CRZ-III and CRZ-IV—in the 1991 notification.
  • CRZ-I - Ecologically sensitive areas that lie between high and low tide line, and are very much essential for maintaining the ecosystems. Natural gas exploration and salt extraction are permitted in this zone.
  • CRZ-II - Areas up to the shoreline of the coast. Unauthorized structures are not allowed here.
  • CRZ-III - Rural and urban areas which fall outside CRZ-I and CRZ-II are covered under CRZ-III. Only agriculture-related activities and public facilities are permitted in this zone.
  • CRZ-IV - Aquatic areas up to territorial limits are notified under CRZ-IV.

Role of Centre & State

  • 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 (CZMP) in accordance with the central Rules.
  • The CZMP is a document that guides future development on and regulations regarding the coast.

Evolution of CRZ Rules

  • The Rules, mandated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, were first framed in 1991. However, it failed to take into account the concerns of coastal communities. Also, despite several amendments, states found the 1991 Rules to be extremely restrictive. The 1991 Rules created hurdles for showpiece industrial and infrastructure projects such as the POSCO steel plant in Odisha and the proposed Navi Mumbai airport.
  • After a series of reviews and amendments, it was eventually replaced with a new notification in 2011. The Centre notified fresh CRZ Rules in 2011, which addressed some concerns. An exemption was made for the construction of the Navi Mumbai airport.
  • District Level Coastal Committees (DLCC), space for coastal communities to participate in some aspects of regulatory decision-making on the coasts were created.
  • After even these Rules were found inadequate, the Environment Ministry in 2014 set up a committee under Shailesh Nayak to give suggestions for a new set of CRZ Rules.
  • The committee submitted its report in 2015.
Shailesh Nayak Committee: Key Recommendations
  • Allow reclamation of lands for specific infrastructure such as ports, bridges and fisheries-related structures for the “larger public interest”.
  • Allow temporary tourist facilities in no-development zones in coastal areas as well as permanent structures on the landward sides of national/state highways when these pass through these zones.
  • Urban planning rules prepared by local authorities be prioritized for slum development and rehabilitation instead of the 2011 regulations which were deemed restrictive by states.
  • Enable states to decide the Floor Area Ratio for construction activity in coastal areas.
  • Central government’s role in coastal areas be limited to environmental clearances and regulating environmentally-sensitive areas.
  • For rural areas with a population density of over 2,161 persons/sq km, the “no-development buffer zone” be limited to 50m from the High Tide Line (HTL).
  • Simultaneously, the 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.

Read also: Tropical Cyclones in India

Salient Features of CRZ Notification, 2018Allowing FSI as per current norms in CRZ areas: As per CRZ, 2011 Notification, for CRZ-II (Urban) areas, Floor Space Index (FSI) or the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) had been frozen as per 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels. In the CRZ, 2018 Notification, it has been decided to de-freeze the same and permits FSI for construction projects. ● Densely populated rural areas to be afforded greater opportunity for development: For CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have now been stipulated as below: (a)  CRZ-III A - These are densely populated rural areas with a population density of 2161 per square kilometer as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall have a No Development Zone (NDZ) of 50 meters from the HTL as against 200 meters from the High Tide Line stipulated in the CRZ Notification, 2011 since such areas have similar characteristics as urban areas. (b)  CRZ-III B - Rural areas with a population density of below 2161 per square kilometer as per 2011 Census. Such areas shall continue to have an NDZ of 200 meters from the HTL. ● Tourism infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted: Temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities, etc. have now been permitted in Beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in the "No Development Zone" (NDZ) of the CRZ-III areas as per the Notification. However, a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL should be maintained for setting up of such facilities. ● CRZ Clearances streamlined: Only such projects/activities, which are located in the CRZ-I and CRZ IV shall be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level with necessary guidance. ● A No Development Zone (NDZ) of 20 meters has been stipulated for all Islands: For islands close to the mainland coast and for all Backwater Islands in the mainland, in wake of space limitations and unique geography of such regions, bringing uniformity in treatment of such regions, NDZ of 20 m has been stipulated. ● All Ecologically Sensitive Areas have been accorded special importance: Specific guidelines related to their conservation and management plans have been drawn up as a part of the CRZ Notification. ●Pollution abatement has been accorded special focus: In order to address pollution in Coastal areas treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards. ● Defense and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.
  • Boost tourism
  • Enhanced employment opportunities
  • Opportunities for affordable housing
  • Promotion of economic growth
  • Rejuvenation of the coastal areas while reducing their vulnerabilities.
CriticismsFacilitate Flagship Projects: The government has declared Sagarmala, Bharatmala, and CEZs as “strategic projects”, which have a blanket exemption from CRZ provisions. ● Enhanced Coastal Vulnerabilities: Studies by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, says the sea level along India is rising at 0.33-5.16 mm per year and predict that the frequency and intensity of unseasonal and extreme weather events will increase in the coming decades. ● Enhanced Risk to Inhabitants: Providing housing facilities just 50 m from the coastline would expose the inhabitants to severe weather events, that too without any buffer. ● Increased Coastal Erosion: According to the Central Water Commission’s Shoreline Change Atlas, India has lost 3,829 km, or 45 percent of the coastline, in just 17 years till 2006. While coastal erosion is a natural phenomenon carried out by waves, tidal and littoral currents and deflation, the report says these factors get exacerbated by activities like land reclamation and other structures on the coast. ● Disregard to Fragile Coastal Ecology: The controversial land reclamation, in which new land is created from oceans or lake beds and is known to have strong impacts on coastal ecology, has been allowed in intertidal or CRZ-IB areas, for ports and sea links. ● Increased Pollution Levels: Increasing nutrients in the coastal water may lead to ecological disturbances affecting the coastal ecosystem processes and services. ● Unscientific Approach: Government has relied on satellite imagery to demarcate CRZ categories with little or no corroboration on the ground. ● Local Communities Further Distanced: New notification brings clearance in CRZ-IV areas under the purview of the Centre. Earlier, the area was under the state government. Now, it will be difficult for communities to get their voices heard in Delhi. ● Non-Empirical Approach: No study is available to show the carrying capacity of coastal areas to accommodate such increased development or the projected impact of such a change on the coastal communities.

By allowing constructions within and closer to the sea, waiving the building regulations for coastal towns and limiting decentralization only to the level of states government (where there is no space for community participation), the objectives of coastal conservation and livelihood protection would be substantially compromised.


A committee under MS Swaminathan was set up in the aftermath of the tsunami in 2004. It suggested a land rights recognition law along the lines of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 for the communities who subsist on the coastal areas based on their customary rights. It is imperative to bring in a stringent coastal policy, to conserve both the ecology and the communities. The government should come up with a comprehensive act for the coastal areas and facilitate the greater role of local bodies and enhanced community participation in the governance of coastal areas so as to ensure sustained utilization of coastal zones.

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