India was supposed to get a Hazard Line two years ago. The line demarcates the coastal area that is at high risk from flooding, coastal erosion and emerging threats like sea level rise. It would help the 13 coastal states and Union Territories be better prepared for disasters like cyclones and storm surges.

Over 170 million people live in coastal areas of the country.

In the 2011 Coastal Zone Regulation, the environment ministry incorporated a provision not just to demarcate the high tide line and low tide lines but also a Hazard Line. The high tide line forms a baseline from where the extent of the coastal zones to be protected is measured.

Under the current rules, 500m from the high tide line towards the landward side is the zone where the government can regulate all sorts of activities from construction to mining in the interest of protecting the coastal environment. However, under the 2011 notification, if the Hazard Line lies beyond the high tide line, the former becomes the operational baseline.

As part of a World Bank-funded project launched in 2010, the ministry was to map the Hazard Line with the help of the Survey of India. By 2015, the country was to get a line which would tell policy makers and public how far inland the risk of coastal hazards spread. The project was delayed and a new deadline of December 31, 2017, has been set.

The Hazard Line is an advanced warning system that helps to not only prevent deaths but also save crores in property loss. “It provides scientific basis for futuristic planning to maximise economic benefits and minimise ecological impacts,” a World Bank spokesperson said.