August 13, 2021 9:00:34 pm
The Bombay High Court on Thursday, while clearing way for construction of the six-lane Thane Creek Bridge (TCB) – III on Sion-Panvel Highway, held that the construction will impact the “customary right” of fisherfolk inhabited around the creek.
It directed the state government to frame a policy for compensation of fisherfolk or members of any other community whose right to livelihood is impacted by government infrastructure projects.
As per the implementing agency, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), TCB III is being constructed as an addition to the existing Thane Creek Bridge near Vashi in Navi Mumbai.
The MSRDC said the Thane Creek Bridge is built across the creek, connecting Mumbai to the mainland at Navi Mumbai, and is one of the four entry points into Mumbai — the other three being Airoli Bridge, Mulund Check Naka and Dahisar Check Naka. The TCB was constructed in 1973 and TCB II was opened to traffic in 1997.
The bench directed the formation of a “TCB compensation committee” to determine compensation to the project-affected fisherfolk. The committee — to include representatives of MSRDC, fisheries department, police department of the area, Thane district collector and a member of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) — will decide yardsticks to identify persons affected by the project, types of losses and determine compensation for the eligible persons.
The court said, “We believe that such a state-wide compensation policy is required not only for fishermen compensation, but for the compensation of any community whose customary rights to carry out an activity for their livelihood is impacted by government infrastructure projects.”
The bench sought compliance of its directives within six weeks. It held that, “We are of the view that TCB-III is likely to impact the Project Affected Fishermen’s customary right to fish for a living and that they are entitled to be compensated for their loss.”
A division bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Milind Jadhav passed the judgment on a writ petition by ‘Mariyayi Macchimaar Sahkari Sanstha Maryadit’, a cooperative society of fisherfolk from Vashigaon, Juhugaon, Koparkhairane, Ghansoli and Diva, raising welfare concerns of members of their community located in and around Thane creek.
The petitioner society, through advocate Zaman Ali, said that the project affected fishermen are inhabitants of Thane creek, and exercise their customary right to fish for a living therein. “Construction of TCB will adversely affect their right to fish and means of livelihood for more than 100 years and therefore, they should be appropriately compensated,” the petition said.
Advocate Saket Mone, for the respondent MSRDC, submitted that the project was in “public interest” and did not deny the possible impact of TCB III on the mangroves, biodiversity, fish catch, etc. Mone, however, added that the navigational channels for fishing activities will not be impacted due to the project and that the corporation did not have objection to framing of a policy in this case to determine who pays the compensation.
The HC will hear the plea after six weeks.
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