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'We'll Lose Livelihood, Land': Fisherfolk Oppose Vadhavan Port in a Mumbai Rally

Fisherfolk and Adivasis took out a march at Azad Maidan on Monday against the construction of Vadhavan port.

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Fisherfolk, Adivasis, and villagers along the western coast of Dahanu-Palghar-Thane took out a march at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Monday, 21 November, against the construction of Vadhavan port in Dahanu. Organised on the occasion of World Fisheries Day, the protest was attended by more than 10,000 people.

Ramkrishna Tandel, working president of the Maharashtra Machchhimar Kruti Samiti, told The Quint that if the port is built, the livelihood of fisherfolk will be affected as the fisheries in the port and adjacent area will become out of bounds for them. He also expressed the fear that about 40 villages will be displaced for the project.

Tandel was part of the delegation that met Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on the sidelines of the protests. Shinde assured the protesters that he will call a meeting of concerned officials soon and look into the matter.

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Jaykumar Bhay, president of Thane Jilha Machchhimar Madhyavarti Sangh, told The Quint, "We want a complete rollback of the project and if that doesn't happen, we will march to Delhi soon."

Fisherfolk and Adivasis took out a march at Azad Maidan on Monday against the construction of Vadhavan port.

A leader addresses the gathering at Azad Maidan 

(Photo: By arrangement)

India's 13th Major Port

The Union Cabinet had given its in-principle approval to build a major port at Vadhavan in Dahanu taluka in February 2020. India currently has 12 major ports, out of which Maharashtra has two – Mumbai Port and Jawaharlal Nehru Port.

The project will be jointly developed by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and Maharashtra Maritime Board with a shareholding of 74% and 26% respectively. The port will operate on a landlord model, which means while the government will retain the ownership of the port, all the port operations, such as cargo handling, will be conducted by private companies.

The Union government estimates that the total cost of the project will be about 65,544 crore.

According to the government, "The Vadhavan port has a natural draft of about 20 meters close to the shore, making it possible for it to handle bigger vessels at the port. Development of Vadhavan port will enable call of container vessels of 16,000-25,000 TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) capacity, giving advantages of economies of scale & reducing logistics cost."

The protesters claimed that about 5,000 acre of offshore land will be reclaimed for the port, which will result in displacement of people along with their livelihood getting destroyed.

"As the port will be operated using advanced technology and machines, not much employment will be generated. And since land will be acquired from locals and the Adivasis to build highways, connecting roads, and for landfilling, it will lead to environmental degradation," a pamphlet circulated by the protesters says.

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) Shows Support to Fisherfolk

Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council Ambadas Danve was present at Azad Maidan to show his support to the fisherfolk along with other Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leaders such as Sunil Prabhu and Sunil Shinde and Lok Bharati's Kapil Patil.

Fisherfolk and Adivasis took out a march at Azad Maidan on Monday against the construction of Vadhavan port.

Member of Maharashtra Legislative Council Kapil Patil at Azad Maidan, Mumbai

(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Kapil Patil)

"Vadhavan port must be cancelled. Five thousand acre land will be acquired. Once this 5,000 acre land is reclaimed, where will the seawater go? It will enter your houses, your villages may get flooded ... This government doesn't need fisherfolk, this government doesn't need fishing. They prefer companies."
– Ambadas Danve

Dahanu taluka, which is at a distance of 140 kilometre from Mumbai, was declared as an ecologically fragile area by the Union government in 1991. The protesters say that if the Vadhavan project goes ahead, it will be disastrous for the region from an ecological point of view.

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