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Friday, December 3, 2021

Centre proposes allowing exploratory drilling for oil, natural gas in inter-tidal areas of CRZ

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The Union government proposes to allow exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas in the intertidal areas of coastal regulation zones (CRZ) and let gas-based power plants function within similar protected areas in islands, floating these for public feedback as part of three draft notifications that experts say degrade fragile areas.

CRZs are divided based on how far they are from the shore and high-tide areas, with varying levels of restrictions on the sort of activities that can be carried out.

According to a draft notification issued on November 1, the Centre said several states and the Union ministry of petroleum sought amendments in the CRZ notification to allow small infrastructure projects, the removal of sand bars by traditional communities, exempting exploratory drilling in inter-tidal areas and letting people set up temporary beach shacks in CRZ areas of all coastal states.

The draft notification introduces all these provisions, proposing to allow Coastal Zone Management Authority or State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), instead of the Centre, to take decisions on these. “There is no ambiguity in our intention and its clear in the preamble why these draft notifications have been issued. Oil and gas exploration is like a research activity. Development and production will still require CRZ nod. We are waiting for responses on these draft notifications,” said a senior environment ministry official. There is a sixty day period for public to send in their comments and objections to the draft notifications.

In another draft notification, dated November 18, the Centre has made provisions for gas power plants within the Island Coastal Regulation Zone (ICRZ). According to the draft, the Centre received a proposal from Andaman and Nicobar Coastal Zone Management Authority (ANCZMA) to include gas-based power plant within the ICRZ area to reduce dependence on diesel generator sets.

Experts cautioned these tweaks could degrade fragile landscapes in coastal areas.

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