With the government planning to relax the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms for constructions along the sea, members of the fishing community opposed to the move met Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil Tuesday to voice their concerns.
Representatives of the community reiterated their demand that the city’s 38 koliwadas be mapped and demarcated as CRZ III at the earliest, to pave the way for their makeover into new-age fishing colonies.
Following Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s announcement on April 24 about the Centre agreeing to relaxing conditions for the redevelopment of coastal slums in Mumbai, the fishing community has decided to intensify their fight over the issue of demarcating koliwadas.
The community, which has been struggling to save their traditional livelihood for decades, now fears losing their homes and livelihood to private builders and developers.
Located on some prime land of the city, the koliwadas are protected under the CRZ III, according to the community. “Relaxing CRZ norms would mean no more protection to koliwadas and land will automatically be thrown open to private developers. We are in favour of development but not at the cost of our livelihood. If the city develops, we should rightfully get our share,” said Rajhans Tapke, general secretary of the Koli Mahasangh and resident of Versova koliwada.
The fishermen pointed to real estate development in Juhu’s Moragaon koliwada dominated by the Mangela community. In the past decade, the locals have seen an engineering college, a hotel, a big residential colony and many villas come up around them.
According to Dashrath Mangela, chairman of the Juhu Moragaon Macchimar Vividh Karyakari Society, one of those residential complexes was built by judges and Indian Administrative Service officers. “Everybody wants to stay along the coastal area; why can’t we, the original residents of the city? It is our right. Like everyone, we also want clean air and a nice environment. Why should we move from here,” said Mangela’s younger brother Rajesh.
“Demarcating the original goathans and koliwadas is necessary. Since these goathans and koliwadas are not demarcated, they were not included in the Development Plan (DP). The Koli community has long been demanding for this. Already a committee to look into this is in place. This committee will now take suggestion and objections from the community and the BMC would then demarcate the original koliwadas,” said the revenue minister.
Be it the Cuffe Parade koliwada, Versova or Moragaon in Juhu, or even Worli and Mahim, fishermen across Mumbai have shared concerns of the critically dropping quantity and quality of their catch. The reasons for their livelihood concerns are shared too — pollution, loss of the mangrove habitats, and the consequent changing tidal patterns due to rapid development.
“Our catch has reduced by50 per cent in the past decade mainly due to polluted water and destruction of mangroves. Earlier, a boat would bring in
3 tonnes of fish in a span of ten days but not any more. Even the quality of fish has deteriorated, which is visible in the smaller sizes of Pomfret. Very rarely do we find a Pomfret as big as 500 gram and more,” said Tapke.
Ujwala Patil from Mahim Koliwada said, “Earlier, we managed to get fish within 5 nautical miles from the coast. This is rare now. The city is undergoing rapid urbanisation without any socio-economic impact study being carried out.”
Ten years ago, said Rajesh Mangela, a fishermen would be able catch fish worth Rs 30,000. The value has now reduced to
Rs 10,000. “The BMC is planning to have water sports activities on the beach, which will further scare the fish away. We have proposed that the BMC should allow us to take tourists into the sea on fishing trips or even boat rides, which will be a good experience to get to know the fishing community as well as give us a livelihood,” he said.