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Plea against memo on CRZ nod: Madras HC orders notice to Ministry of Environment


PTI, Sep 11, 2021, 8:00 PM IST

Taking note of the impact on the coastal zone regulation, the Madras High Court has admitted a PIL (public interest litigation) petition to quash a memorandum of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change dated February 19 this year, and ordered notice to the Ministry.

The notice is returnable by October 21, said the First Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesavalu. According to the petitioner K Bharathi, the memo details the procedure for dealing with violations arising out of not obtaining a CRZ (coastal regulation zone) clearance for permissible activities.

As of now under the CRZ notification, 2011, activities in a regulated coastal area can be undertaken only upon obtaining clearance or else there would be wanton degradation. Even if the parameters are left unaltered, the activities undertaken before getting the permission may cause irreversible change and destroy the environment.

Even if, in course of granting the ex post facto clearance or refusing the same, that part of the project which contravenes norms is required to be undone or the entirety of the project is to be abandoned and the activities undertaken stopped together with the construction razed, the damage that it would have done may be irreversible or may take decades together before the natural scheme of things is restored, the petitioner said.

The Bench said there is some substance in the petitioner’s assertion and it does not appear that the memo talks of a one-time amnesty scheme or a cut-off date or is limited in its operation.

There is sufficient basis to the assertion that if the principle of clearance is diluted and ex post facto clearance is permitted, it would encourage the wanton degradation of the coastal region and would be against the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and the ethos of section 3, the judges said.

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