India has a beautiful 7500 kilometre long coastline. New rules for coastal areas suggested by the central government may destroy the coastal environment and hurt the rights of fisherfolk, feel those working for the environment.
What do the new rules say?
The new rules propose to allow development and construction closer to the shore in areas where more people live. For example, in areas where more than 2161 people live per square kilometer (think of a square area of side one kilometer), construction will be allowed upto 50 metres from the high tide line. During high tide (which occurs twice every 24 hours), the sea water comes closer to the shore. Under earlier rules, nothing was allowed for 200 metres from the high tide line. The fear is that tourism and commercial activities (such as shops) will take over beach areas.
No protection for mangroves
The new rules also provide for construction of roads in coastal areas, including those on stilts (legs) going over water. Worryingly, it also allows building of roads in mangrove areas. Mangrove forests near the sea are a special habitat home to many birds and animals. Plus these mangroves also prevent sand from being washed away and protect the coastline during cyclones and floods.
Among the people who are most worried are fishermen. They are worried that tourism and construction activities near the coast will hurt the environment of the beach areas and affect their fishing. Plus the areas near the shore where fisher folk used to park boats and dry nets may no longer be available if they are sold by the government to hotel and shop owners.
Although the rules are only being shared now for discussion before they are finalized, those who fight for the environment fear that beach and coastal areas will end up being sacrificed to make a few people rich.