The Bandra-Worli Sea Link project affects the livelihood of around 15,000 fishermen. In Mahim, 500 dependents and in Bandra another 2,000 are affected. All of these families can trace their ancestry to over 600 years of living in the area and fishing in these waters.
Members of the Koli fishing community in South Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade area are worried about the future of fishing in the Arabian Sea due to the upcoming Coastal Road projects and BMC’s dream project, Shivaji memorial statue.
The coastal areas of Mumbai are polluted with tonnes of non-biodegradable waste. 80% of the catch by fishermen turns out to be garbage. Adding to their misery, the coastal road projects by the Government might destroy the livelihood of more than 25,000 fishermen.
The 16-billion-rupee Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link project, which connects Bandra in the Western Suburbs to Worli in South Mumbai has not only added to the air pollution while discouraging people to use train or bus services, but has also ignored the effects of the project on the coastline area, mangrove forests and marine ecosystem. It was inaugurated back in 2009. The unregulated reclamation of land and construction is also one of the reasons for the Mithi river floods which is a consistent problem. Dadar’s 50 meter coastline has been reduced to 3 meters due to the same.
Another coastal road project, to become the country’s longest sea bridge, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link will also affect the fishermen but the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority) has decided to pay a compensation of Rs. 5,68,000 per family. There are more than 3000 claimants till now. The project cost is estimated around Rs. 17,750 crore.
The upcoming project that will connect Princess Street in Marine Drive to Kandivali might terribly mount the already existing pathetic conditions of the fishermen communities. The 8 lakh crore project is unlikely to favour their livelihood, ignoring the following crucial factors:
1. Acquired land must have a green belt area.
2. Enough dumping space must be made for disposing debris.
The project is likely to eat up the Arabian sea and considering that nobody was given compensation in the previous ones, the mere thought of proposed plans haunts these fishermen’s lives.
To bring home a good catch, the fishermen must dig further into the sea for better results risking their lives with fatal high tides.
Another hindrance to their peaceful living is the 192 m (Now 210) high Shivaji Memorial statue that has been planned on a rocky outcrop of 15.96 hectares, roughly 1.5 km from Raj Bhavan and 3.5 km into the Arabian Sea. A 15 hectare construction is undoubtedly going to affect the marine biodiversity in the worst ways possible.
The NGT (National Green Tribunal) closest to Mumbai is in Pune and after the retirement of Justice Kumar in December 2017, has been without a judge. There are petitions and appeals filed by these fishermen but there’s no one who would look upon them and act favourably.
The question is, are these projects which are all set to disturb environmental balance and affect the original inhabitants of Mumbai really the need of the hour?
Is it fair in a democracy, for the government to focus on providing service to only a few percentage where 70-80 lakh people still travel miserably in trains?
Video Editor: Ashish Maccune
Camera Assistant: Gautam Sharma