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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

DPR is similar to EMPR

Posted By: R. Sudarshana
Date: Monday, 20 December 1999, at 5:52 p.m.

In Response To: A new approach to offshore resource exploration / South Africa. (Ian McLachlan)

I find the entire EMPR process a very comprehensive methodology involving science, environment, technology, administration and finally the public (society). Since most of it is an offshore operation, the typical conflicts of coastal zone, such as rights of communities and prioritisation of different resources etc., are not applicable here. The practice almost totally depends on technology and even environmental audit is in the realm of technology. Hence, public participation is very limited and is understandably so.

I wish to describe some similar practices we have in India for coastal developmental work that involves industry. Perhaps, all the commonwealth countries have a similar system.

Whenever an area is notified for development that could be classified as industry (harbours, mining, setting up of industrial units, extraction of non-living resources, building hotels, etc.), they are automatically governed by an intricate coastal regulatory zone act. The notification remains responsible to I & APs for a specified time (usually six months) and the notification may be legally challenged. This is the usual period in which responses get focused and segregated in various sectors. This is the period for submission of bids for the area development also. At the end of this period, prime contract for development is given and the coastal area developer has to submit the Detailed Project Report (DPR) to the maritime authority. DPR is complete technical document and it describes the environment in precise scientific terms, brings out the problems & prospects of the site, presents the socio-economic dimension and provides tenderable drawings and estimates of all the engineering structures on the coast. DPRs should also include EIA reports for an area 10 Km around the periphery of the development. The EIA and a few other parts of the DPR are then sent for a public hearing which is widely publicized. In the public hearing, Government officials, academic experts, technologists and noted social workers are invited. Attendance is not limited to invitees only. This is a very democratic kind of public audit of the project. Only after this, the project is allocated to the developer.

I see wisdom in this method and also in the EMPR method of South Africa. Offshore development in India is also very similar to yours and is governed by UNCLOS principles. India already has ‘pioneer’ status for manganese nodules in the offshore areas of Indian Ocean and the resource development was envisaged in a similar method as the EMPR. With an intricate system such as this, it is difficult to find lacunae in the wise practice. Perhaps these are wise practices, may be confidently transferable - time will tell.

The only dimension that bothers me is our limited ability to govern the future of environment and the sudden ambiguity with which knowledge appears before us sometimes. I know I am being philosophical , but belief in ‘chaos’ in the physical order of nature is sometimes a useful path in developing immunity to disorder. With this in view, I would like to postpone the judgement on ‘wise practice’ for a post mortem day in future even for those projects that have been evolved with the most logical integration of contemporary knowledge. Because, believing in an absolute spatio-temporal ‘wise practice’ is in itself being a little unwise. I prefer to retain the right to question the society and myself.

Your article is an eye opener tonight.

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