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Across the globe, the “development experience” of communities varies depending on their socioeconomic and political backgrounds. As a result of advancing developmental projects, a few communities are invariably made to pay a disproportionate share of the environmental costs in the form of exposure to toxic waste, loss of livelihood, and restrictions on mobility or access to common resources. This injustice, more than often not, is an outcome of active noncompliance and violation of environmental regulations by the projects.
The Centre for Policy Research–Namati Environmental Justice Program is an effort towards closing this environment regulation enforcement gap. We have created a network of community-based paralegals, called as enviro-legal coordinators (ELCs), who work with affected communities using an evidence-based legal approach. As a part of this approach, the ELCs combine their understanding of the law, negotiation and mediation skills, and understanding of local contexts to assist affected communities in the use of the law to resolve environmental conflicts. They help the communities to understand relevant laws and environmental regulations and support them in engaging with institutions using these laws for better enforcement of regulatory compliance on the ground. This approach also develops a collaborative space for institutions and citizens to craft practical and sustainable remedies for the impacts that communities experience.
This publication is a compendium of a few cases undertaken by the CPR–Namati Program’s ELCs working across the coastal belt in Gujarat and North Karnataka. These case stories capture the process of our work and illustrate the systematic, evidence-based legal approach followed by the ELCs along with the affected coastal community members to resolve conflicts arising from noncompliance or improper implementation of environmental regulations.
These case stories are divided into three major thematic sections as follows:
Section 1: Establishment and Activation of Gujarat’s District-Level Coastal Committees (DLCCs) as per Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011: This section includes case studies from Gujarat, where ELCs worked towards establishing or activating District-Level Coastal Committees, an institution set up for better implementation of CRZ regulations and protection of rights of traditional coastal communities.
Section 2: Securing Housing Clearances for Coastal Communities under Coastal Zone Regulation Notification, 2011 in North Karnataka: This section includes case studies from Uttara Kannada, a district in North Karnataka, where ELCs supported members of coastal communities in securing housing clearances under the coastal protection law.
Section 3: Legal Empowerment in Practice: Two Case Stories: This section has two case stories from our field sites in Gujarat that illustrate the process and outcomes of legal empowerment though our work with communities.