Details :

Genesis of Coastal Regulations in India


Dr. Basanta Kumar Sahu, Junior Scientist,

Forest & Environment Department, Government of Odisha, Bhubaneswar



India has a coast line of 7500 k.m. The coast is endowed with a very wide range of coastal ecosystems like mangroves, coral reefs, sea grasses, salt marshes, sand dunes, estuaries, lagoons, etc., which are characterized by distinct biotic and abiotic processes. The coastal areas are constantly under developmental pressure for economic, industrial, transportation and recreational needs. All these developments are the lifelines for a sizeable portion of the country’s population as more than one fourth of the population (nearly 250 million) live on the coast. With the growth of cities, towns, ports, industrial establishments and other developments, the coasts have been altered to a great extent. Degradation and misutilization of beaches are affecting the aesthetic and environmental values including considerable economic and recreational loss. Keeping in view the fact that multifarious activities in coastal zone has resulted in over-exploitation of marine and coastal resources and marked degradation of the quality of coastal habitats and environment, it was felt to frame legislations to regulate developmental activities in coastal areas by the Govt. of India in the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), which is responsible for protecting and conserving the environment of the country.  

Indian Initiatives

The effort to protect the Indian coast began in the early 1980s at the initiative of the then Prime Minister Ms. Indira Gandhi. It is said that after her visit to Puri sea beach, she wrote to all State Chief Ministers on 27th November 1981 saying:

“I have received a number of reports about the degradation and misutilization of beaches in our coastal states by building and other activity. This is worrying as the beaches have aesthetic and environmental value as well as other uses. They have to be kept clear of all activities at least up to 500 meters from the water at the maximum high tide. If the area is vulnerable to erosion, suitable trees and plants have to be planted on the beach sands without marring their beauty.

Beaches must be kept free from all kinds of artificial development. Pollution from industrial and town wastes must be also avoided totally.

Please give thought to this matter and ensure that our lovely coastline and its beaches remain unsullied.”

This letter is popularly referred to as the Prime Minister’s Directive. Though it had no legal backing, it still had a considerable impact. In July 1983 the Government of India, Department of Environment (which later became the Ministry of Environment & Forests) framed the “Environmental Guidelines for Development of Beaches” on the basis of the report of the Working Group, constituted in September, 1982 for such purposes. A set of guidelines for development of beaches were also circulated to all States/Union Territories in March 1984. The environmental guidelines for siting of industry brought out by Environment Ministry in 1985 stipulates that a distance of ‘at least ½ km from high tide line‘ be avoided for location of industry. The environmental guidelines for Thermal Power Plants brought out in 1987 went much further. They stipulated that in order to protect the coastal areas above 500 mt of HTL a buffer zone of 5kms should be kept free of any Thermal Power Stations. All this resulted in pressure being exerted on Central and State Government departments and agencies not to locate their own establishments – or to allow location of those activities eg. hotels which came to them for permission – within the 500mt limit. At the Centre, the directive obviously had great force; projects which came to the Environment Ministry for environmental clearance  (mainly central public sector projects requiring Public Investment Board clearance, private sector projects belonging to a list of ‘polluting’ industries and power projects) were required to adhere to the 500mt limit. 

However, taking note into the failure of such guidelines, the MoEF had carried out an in-house consultation and issued a draft Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification twice inviting suggestions and objections from public on 27th July, 1990 and 15th December, 1990.

On February 19, 1991, for the first time in a legal framework, the MoEF issued a notification popularly known as ‘CRZ Notification’ under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, seeking to regulate development activity along the coastline. The said notification stipulated uniform regulations for the entire coastline. It failed to take into account that the Indian coastline is highly diverse in terms of biodiversity, hydrodynamic conditions, demographic patterns, natural resources, geomorphological and geological features. The restrictive nature of the notification caused hardships to the persons/communities living in certain ecologically sensitive coastal stretches. There have been about 25 amendments to this notification between 1991 and 2009, some of which were based on the directions of the Supreme Court. In May 2008, the MoEF brought out a new draft Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) notification that evoked much criticism from all sections of stakeholders. Eventually, this notification was allowed to lapse and the Ministry brought out a fresh notification under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 in September 2010, which after much discussions and deliberations, was finally passed as Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 with effect from January 6, 2011. The 2011 Notification takes into account and address all the above issues in a comprehensive manner, relying on the recommendations made in the “Final Frontier” report by the Committee chaired by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan on Coastal Regulation and the findings of the various consultations held in various coastal States and Union Territories.

Significance of CRZ Notification, 2011

The most significant new provisions in the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011 are:

·        For the first time, water area up to 12 nautical miles in the sea and the entire water area of a tidal water body such as creek, river, estuary without imposing any restrictions of fishing activities will be regulated by the Notification. Thus, the main change in the scope of regulation has been to expand the CRZ to include territorial waters as a protected zone.

·        In order to safeguard livelihood and property of local communities including the infrastructure along the coastal areas, the hazard line has been introduced taking into account tides, waves, sea level rise and shoreline changes which will be demarcated by the Survey of India.

·        Keeping in view the environmental and social issues, special dispensation has been provided to Critically Coastal Vulnerable Areas.

·        In view of the erosion experienced along the coastal areas due to man made interventions, the shoreline will be mapped using up-to-date satellite images. No foreshore development would be permissible in high eroding areas.

·        A clear procedure for obtaining CRZ clearance is laid down with stipulated time frame.

·        Provide a post clearance monitoring mechanism and a clear cut enforcement mechanism to check violations.

            The coastal zone management in India is centered on the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification. This notification helps for coastal conservation in order to protect the livelihoods of all sections of coastal communities. However, the implementation of this legislation has appeared to be not up to the mark by most of the coastal States due to weak infrastructure and enforcement mechanisms.


Other Indian Laws and Regulations

Apart from the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, there are many legislations/Acts & Rules related to coastal activities. The important ones are: Indian Fisheries Act, 1897; Indian Ports Act, 1902; Merchant Shipping Act, 1974; Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; Indian Coast Guards Act, 1974; Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981; Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; The Petroleum Act, 1934; National Green Tribunal Act, 2010; Wetlands (Conservation and  Management) Rules, 2010; and Hazardous Substances (Handling, Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2009. In addition to this, India has signed and ratified several international conventions relating to oceans and related activities. Some of these are related to marine environment and applicable to coastal area also. The important ones are: MARPOL 1973/1978; London Dumping Convention, 1972; Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damages (CLC 1969) and its Protocol, 1976; Fund, 1971 and its Protocol, 1979; CITES, Convention on Biodiversity, 1992 includes coastal biodiversity also.

Coast Needs Space

Generally the coastal zone is a very dynamic area owing to the marine and riverine influences. A normal coast requires some space for the various functions such as

·        to dissipate tidal and wave energy

·        to reduce risk from flood, erosion and other natural hazards

·        to give stability to the adjoining land

·        to allow the coastal ecosystems to grow and function

·        and allow adjustment to changing conditions of man and nature

Major conflicts in coastal management are primarily because coast requires space for functioning where as coastal space is required for various uses. In addition to this, there are competitions for resources among various stakeholders. According to shoreline setbacks or exclusion zones, certain uses are prohibited within a specified distance. The distance adopted by different countries as setback zones based on developed activities, geomorphology, ecosystems, etc. are listed below:


Setback Zones





Costa Rica (Public zone)


Costa Rica (Restricted zone)




















New Zealand





Permanent vegetation line

Philippines (Mangrove greenbelt)








USSR – Coast of the Black sea





Protection of Coast

The coastal areas are assuming greater importance in recent years, owing to increasing human population, urbanization and accelerated developmental activities. These anthropogenic activities have put tremendous pressure on the fragile coastal environment. The coastal areas are also the place where natural disasters are also experienced. The entire East coast of India, the Gujurat coast  along the West coast and the islands of Lakshadeep, and Andaman and Nicobar face frequent cyclonic conditions which some times cause large scale destruction of life and property. The Super Cyclone had caused massive destruction along the coast of Orissa in 1999 and its impact was felt several kilometers inland. The tsunami, which occurred on 26th December, 2004 was one of the most serious and unexpected natural catastrophes to occur along the Indian coast. While it is agreed that no human interference is possible to control such an event but precautionary measures such as coastal area planning for locating coastal communities in safer areas, protecting and propagating the natural protecting systems such as mangroves, coral reefs, shelter belt plantations, along with installation of early warning systems, timely evacuation and relief measures can minimize loss of life and property to a large extent. 



The CRZ Notification 2011 is a major step-up from the 1991 Notification and the MoEF, Govt. of India has made special efforts to include specific provisions to benefit the fisher-folk community in all the coastal areas and address the shortcomings of the 1991 CRZ Notification such as time-bound clearances, enforcement measures, special provisions for specific coastal stretches etc. There is a significant change in the new notification but there is always need for further improvement. It is too early to comment on proper implementation and effective enforcement of the provisions of CRZ Notification, 2011.

- -- -


Source: Odisha ENVIS Centre