Alang, world's most toxic beach

Alang is the most toxic beach in the world. Communities, NGOs have rejected new coastal zone notification and demanded that the government 'implement the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification in its original 1991 form, until a new comprehensive legislation is enacted that satisfies the requirements of the fishing communities'.

The CRZ has been in place since 1991 and amended 19 times in the last 15 years 'under pressure from commercial interests'. The current amended policy that allows status quo deprives communities in Alang of their livelihood and threatens their food chain and health.

CRZ notification was aimed at protection of the coastal areas from the ravages of coastal tourism, industrialization and other development activities. It was first mooted in 1981 by Indira Gandhi late Prime Minister of India. Attempts to protect the coastal stretch started in 1991 when developments were regulated with respect to the high tide line. In 2004, the Environment Ministry set up a committee under the Chairmanship of M.S. Swaminathan to review the existing rules and recommend changes and if necessary recast the coastal regulatory framework.

In 2005, the committee suggested a scientific way to classify coastal zones and emphasised the idea of comprehensive management. Following which the ministry proposed that the coastal ones be delineated with reference to a setback line based on the vulnerability of the coast to the sea-level rise and shoreline changes, amongst other parameters.

The proposed coastal management zone (CMZ) policy must ensure that the toxic industrial activity that pre-dates Environmental Protection Act of 1986 must be shifted from Alang and restored to its original form. Dumping of most toxic wastes and ships since 1982 from countries like US, Russia and Europe on Alang beach has contaminated the ground water and the coastal ecosystem beyond repair.

The new CMZ, India would also be violation the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar Resolution and the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

No wonder, National Fishermen Federation (NEF) and the fishermen are totally against the implementation of CMZ. It would be in fitness of things if NFF takes up the issue of protection Alang beach to save health and livelihood of the local communities in Bhavnagar, Gujarat.

The fishermen from all over the country will be launching an indefinite agitation in front of the parliament at New Delhi from July 22, to press for their demand for the scrapping of the CMZ.

Any environmental policy that threatens livelihood and fails to stop hazardous industrial activity on Alang beach for instance clearly condons and encourages such ecological and health disaster is regressive and cannot be deemed "envioronmental" from any strech of imagination.

Vijai Sharma, the new union environment secretary must make fresh start by agreeing to revise the CMZ in the light of the concerns raised by the communities and protect the coastal zones such as Alang and others. Sharma was Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat and replaces Meena Gupta, as Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests who retired on June 30, 2008. Sharma assumed charge on 1st July.

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