Coastal Road: where are the alternative jobs for fishermen, asks High Court


Government has not come up with rehabilitation plan for fishermen, say judges

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government if it has thought of a substitute occupation for 600 fishermen families whose livelihood is under threat from the construction of the 35.6-km coastal road.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N.M. Jamdar was hearing a petition filed by two fishing societies raising grievances against the coastal road project that proposes to connect Marine Drive to Kandivali. The petitions have said the project will lead to the loss of direct access to the sea and coastal commons due to reclamation and loss of coastal resource, habitats and fish-breeding areas.

In the last hearing, the court had directed the State Fisheries Commissioner to hold discussions with the representatives of the two petitioners, Worli Koliwada Nakhava Matsya Vyavasay Sahakari Society Limited and Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society. The meeting was held on March 7, 2019 at the Commissioner of Fisheries’ office, and a report was submitted to the bench.

On Wednesday, government lawyer Purnima Kantharia submitted details of the meeting in the court, following which the bench said the government had still not come up with a rehabilitation plan for the fishermen. “Should the fishermen stop fishing? Has the government thought about their livelihood? What is your plan to rehabilitate them?” the court said. The bench posted the petition for further hearing on March 19, by when the government will have to tell the court about its rehabilitation plan.

‘No tests, studies’

The Worli Koliwada Nakhava Matsya Vyavasay Sahakari Society Limited has 569 members, while the Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society has 396 members. The representatives of the societies said, at the meeting, that a public hearing and an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study was not carried out by the relevant authority before beginning the project. Among other concerns, they said, the authority has not carried out soil testing, which is required for construction of the project.

The two engineers of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) who were at the meeting, however, said, the EIA study was conducted by the BMC-appointed consultant while studies were carried out by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO). A proposal was then submitted to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and subsequently to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for getting Coastal Regulation Zone clearance. Only after all this, was the work started, they said. The conditions to be complied with as per the MCZMA’s direction and the ministry while granting CRZ clearance is in progress, they added. “The NIO has not conducted any survey or study regarding the impact of this project on livelihood of fishermen, fish habitats and biodiversity, but now it has proposed to do so,” they said.

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi, on its part, said it can conduct a survey on the impact of fishermen’s livelihood provided they get an order from the BMC for the work. This will take about a year, it said. The NIO said it has conducted a study with respect to ocean currents and waves but it does not include the loss or impact on fishing activities, livelihood and so on.

The Worli Police and Mumbai Coastal Police said they have not stopped or interrupted fishing activities in the area of the proposed project. However, they have given instructions to fishermen to not disturb the law and order situation.

(With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 10:00:46 AM |

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