Calling the reclamation of land for the Coastal Road Project an ‘assault’ on their economic, social and cultural rights, citizen and fishing community groups on Friday released a study that said the damage caused will be irreversible.
The study on the impact of coastal reclamation was conducted by Collective For Spatial Alternatives (CSA) and the report written by architects Shweta Wagh, Hussain Indorewala and Mihir Desai.
While the study commenced three months ago, the report, titled, ‘Social Ecology of the Shallow Seas — A report on the impact of coastal reclamation on artisan fishing in the Worli Fishing Zone’ was released at a press conference on Friday.
Beginning from Nariman Point in South Mumbai, the eight-lane coastal road will connect to the Bandra Worli Sea Link and then to Versova. While the related work has commenced in Worli around November-end last year, the project has received criticism from the fishing community and residents’ associations.
The report, Ms. Wagh said, is a study of the relationship between coastal ecology and the practices of coastal communities that depend on it for their livelihood. “The specific focus of studies undertaken for this report is the various social arrangements and methods of artisan fishing practices in the shallow waters of the western Island City in Mumbai,” she said.
Stating that the coastal infrastructure projects, such as the Coastal Road Project, will irreversibly damage the coastal ecosystem, Ms. Wagh said it will have a terrible impact on the fishing community. “Due to the work that is on in Worli, artisan fishing practices have been affected. These projects dispose the artisan fisher community of their traditional occupations and deprive them of their cultural rights,” Ms. Wagh said.
The social impact assessment (SIA) made by a private firm, she said, indicates how reclamation for the project will consume almost the entire rocky littoral zone (the near-shore area where sunlight penetrates right up to the sediment and allows aquatic plants to grow) and impact the sub-littoral zone of the western coast of the Island City, and consequently the ecological habitat it bears. But what it fails to do is recognise the dependence of the livelihoods of the fisherfolk on the inter-tidal and shallow waters – the areas that the project will directly impact, said Ms. Wagh. “While the report is entirely based on the secondary data provided by the civic body, the fisher community has not been consulted as an important stakeholder. Such flawed studies have undermined the impact of the project,” she said.
Endorsing the report, the fishermen’s community called for their livelihood and marine life to be protected. “We have 158 machine boats in Worli that go for fishing in that zone. One to four vav (a unit used by the fishermen to measure the depth of water using the high-tide as reference, with one vav being equivalent to a vertical distance of approximately six feet) being rocky, we get good quality fishes such as lobsters, prawns, big crabs, goldfish and pomfret from the area,” Nitesh Patil, 33, a fisherman from Worli said. “We demand that our community be spoken to regarding this project. If we are not satisfied, we will agitate,” Kiran Koli of the Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samiti said.