The emergence of ‘essential’ coastal activities in Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu

Devayani Khare, Marianne Manuel, Aarthi Sridhar

Marine and coastal regions around the world are hotbeds of entrepreneurial activities and competing claims. Here, multiple actors with varying levels of resources and power such as the energy, manufacturing, trade, tourism and industrial lobbies on one hand, and small scale fishers and traditional livelihoods on the other, vie for rights over coastal lands and resources. As a result, coastal management and regulation around the world is challenging and highly fraught.

India is no exception, with India’s primary coastal law, the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZ) being amended 25 times since its introduction in 1991 and eventually being revised as the CRZ 2011, incorporating all amendments. Both versions of the CRZ Notification permitted activities ‘essential’ to the coast but failed to provide definitions of these activities. As a result, coastal spaces were subjected to rampant abuse and destructive development in the name of ‘essential’ activities.

Our research in Thoothukudi city examines the impact of the amendments and revision of the CRZ on the nature and intensity of development on the coast. The study aims to serve as a basis for a broader dialogue on truly ‘essential’ activities on the coast, how these could be regulated and the pros and cons of interpreting ‘essential’ activities in a spirit contrary to the law’s intention.


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