A lot of deliberations, conferences, seminars and so on lace the list of events on protection of environment. Among such priorities, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) enjoys a prominent place. Mindless vandalism within the CRZ concerns the comity of environment activists who, acting within the parametres of the rule, cry for the protection of the CRZ. That no permanent structure, whatsoever, should be built within the CRZ limits, i.e. 500 metres from the sea. But nobody cares.
A few days back the people of Puri witnessed the demolition of a temporary palm-leaf fencing done on the side of the beach in an uncrowded space by internationally famous
sand artist, Sudershan Patnaik, where he used to make sand sculptures on occasions lending Odisha and Puri a chance to hog the headlines in India and abroad. The sculptures usually vanish the very next day with the waves but his fame lingers on in the minds of thousands of art lovers. But the administration perhaps considered that even a temporary enclosure was the most blatant act of violation by Patnaik, hence that was demolished or say just removed! Having done so the administration smirked in triumph. Yeah! They have accomplished a big task!
By and large the weaker ones are always at the receiving end. Patnaik is not a man of any influence like the ones who come from Mumbai or Delhi and pitch their settings in Odisha, even in Puri, with complete support from the politicians and bureaucrats.
But examples are galore to exemplify Puri administration`s toothlessness. Puri, one of the world`s famous tourist destination, deserves extra attention. In 2011, someone raised a concrete boundary wall over an area right on the sea beach, barely 100 metres from the sea. Eyebrows were raised by one and all including the common man, who knows little about such rules.
Complaints were lodged against the violator at different forums but nothing happened. The spirit of the CRZ Act was just tossed into the sea. Interestingly, the said violator is a member of a quasi-judicial body of Puri.
Voices against the violation died down slowly, while the rules against such naked violation remained buried in the offices of the district authorities. Even the Beach Protection Force of Puri remained in oblivion for strange reasons. Three district magistrates have come and two have gone, but none of them dared to touch this illegal structure. CRZ Act empowers the district magistrate to demolish any such structure within the prohibited zone.
This year the encroacher has gone steps further reducing the administration to mere onlooker. He has already built two small houses within that premise. The spot is barely a kilometre away from the DM`s office. Media reports of the violation too have failed to wake up the officials.
The illegal structure on the Puri sea beach is perhaps the first of its kind in the country. Now, let’s take a look at few other encroachers who command influence, abuse laws, unlike Sudershan Patnaik. Not very far from the spot from where Sudershan`s art hovel was demolished, several hotels have also gone much beyond the limit to ‘encroach’ space on the beach using temporary and semi-temporary fencings which serve as hiring space for ceremonies like marriage parties, get-togethers for revellers and so on for which the hotelier charges anywhere between Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 for a certain span of time.
What does it speak of? There is a definite class divide which today marks that the perception of this complex thing called laws is very obtrusive when applied. If you are committed to clean the shore from any such clutter like encroachment, then where is the administration`s promptitude as shown in the case of Sudershan and others.