The National Green Tribunal has held that the Coastal Zone Management Authority is duty bound as per the CRZ Regulations 2011 to hold public hearing before finalizing the Coastal Zone Management Plan. It was also held that the views of the concerned Panchayath also have to be taken before deciding upon the zoning. It was directed as follows :-
Therefore, in any event, we make it clear that public hearing shall be conducted by the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and such enquiry should be conducted in the same District as per the Rules and the views of the Panchayat shall also be considered in a proper manner.
The order was passed in an application filed by an applicant running a Villa, who wanted the classification of the concerned Pancahyath area changed as CRZ-II from CRZ-III( To those uninitiated about Coastal Regulation Zones :- CRZ-II refers to already developed coastal areas, with existing buildings and roads, where developmental activities are permissible on the landward side of existing structures. CRZ-III area refers to undeveloped coastal areas, and in such areas the restrictions on developmental activities are more stringent. So, a classification as CRZ-II is more beneficial from the point of view of a builder/developer/resort-villa owner. For more information on CRZ Regulations, visit here).
The Tribunal also held that merely because an area is a Panchayat area, it cannot be denied classifications as ‘developed area’ under CRZ-II. The contention on behalf of the CZMA was that only designated urban areas can be classified as CRZ-II, and since Panchayaths cannot be regarded as ‘urban areas’ they cannot be classified as CRZ-II.
The developed area‟ as explained in CRZ Notification 2011 is as follows: “For the purposes of the expression “developed area” is referred to as that area within the existing municipal limits or in other legally existing legally designated urban areas which are substantially built up and has been provided with drainage and approach roads and other infrastructural facilities such as water supply and sewerage mains”
The NGT repelled the contention of the CZMA. It was held that
By virtue of the said definition, it is very clear that State Coastal Zone Management Authority cannot blindly take a decision that Panchayat area is not designated as Urban Area. The explanation makes it clear about the development area which should be considered. In addition to that annexure I to the CRZ Notification, 2011 under Item I.D. Hazard Mapping clause II. Classification of CRZ areas under sub clause 6 it is made clear that CRZ II areas shall be those areas which have been substantially builtup with a ratio of built-up plots to that of total plots is more than 50%. 8. Therefore, nowhere there is a mention about that Panchayats falling only under CRZ-III and Municipal areas coming under the CRZ-II as 5 per the Notification, 2011 and the guidelines are clear as stated above.
In the light of such observations, the NGT directed the CZMA to take a decision regarding zoning of the area after public hearing.