The city’s fishermen community will continue its protest against the proposed mid-sea Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial even as the Maharashtra government asked the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to dismiss their petition against the project. The Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti (AMMKS) reiterated its demand that the memorial be shifted to the 225-acre open land of Mumbai Race Course, in the heart of the city.
“We will not let construction happen and will protest. We have nothing against the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister. We have nothing against Shivaji Maharaj. Should there be a statue, it should be come up on the race course, which will harm neither the biodiversity nor the livelihood of the fishermen community,” Damodar Tandel, President of the Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti said at a press conference.
Tandel questioned the steep rise in state government’s figure of expected visitors to the memorial, from 10,000 to 27,000, Tandel claimed that ferrying these tourists to and from the memorial would destroy the marine life in the vicinity.
Marine conservationist Pradip Patade, who is also the other petitioner in the Environment Interest Litigation (EIL), said that the proposed site is home to over 200 marine lives including sea ferns, corals, sponges, and algae.
“Marine life is not limited to fish. There are non-moving organisms like corals and ferns classified as scheduled species under the Wildlife Protection Act and should be protected,” said Patade, who has been studying marine life from Cuff Parade to Raj Bhavan for the last five years.He pointed out that while government obtained various No Objection Certificates (NOCs), environmental clearance and public consent were also important for the project to progress. “There is nothing ‘baseless’ or ‘misleading’ about our petition. We have filed it based on the provisions of the National Institute of Oceanography,” said Patade.
The next hearing of the petition is scheduled on November 18 at the western zone of NGT in Pune. The 192m statue of the Maratha warrior is proposed to be built 3.5 km into the Arabian sea. The project is estimated to cost around Rs.3,600 crore.