The National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) has directed the Gujarat government to ensure that no Water Front Development Plan (WFDP) activity hinders safe access of fishermen to the sea and their use of ports.
NEAA took cognisance of the apprehensions raised over the possible hindrance to fishing activity by the the Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone Limited (MPSEZL) promoted WFDP.
This has brought a huge relief to the 10,000-odd fishermen in and around Mundra coast.
With respect to allegations regarding illegal construction activities by MPSEZL prior to the grant of statutory clearances,and the destruction of mangrove forests,NEAA,recognising the importance of mangroves as the most productive and rich ecosystems on earth,has granted liberty to the fishermen to approach the concerned authorities for necessary relief.
The issue dates back to January 2009 when the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF),Government of India had given environmental clearance to WFDP. In response,the fishermen community had launched an agitation under the banner of Machhimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (MASS),demanding that the state government take measures to ensure the protection of livelihood of the affected fishermen. MASS had also approached NEAA in February 2009,which passed the above order on July 20. Bharat Patel of MASS said,Regarding the issue of mangrove protection,we will approach MoEF soon.
Meanwhile,S K Nanda,Principal Secretary,Forests and Environment,Gujarat,while downplaying the NEAA order,said: There is nothing new in NEAAs order. The environmental clearance given to WFDP is on the pre-condition of no loss of livelihood through traditional fishing as well as total mangrove preservation. In case of violation by MPSEZL,the Port Department will inform us for necessary action.