Amid a standoff between the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and fisherfolk from Worli over the Coastal Road interchange, a letter signed by 51 eminent Mumbai residents including a former municipal commissioner and urban planners to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and minister and MLA from Worli, Aaditya Thackeray, has criticised BMC’s attempt to construct the interchange and suppress peaceful protest by fisherfolk.
“We are worried that a government that claims to be pro-people and pro-environment has allowed this injustice to continue, and has done very little to address the very legitimate demands of the community,” reads the letter. Some of the signatories are DM Sukhtankar, former municipal commissioner, Shirish Patel, an urban planner who envisioned Navi Mumbai and built the city’s first flyover, Dr Surendra
Thakurdesai, a Coastal Geomorphologist, Dr Amita Bhide, Dean, School of Habitat Studies, TISS.
Since October 30, fisherfolk from the Worli’s Cleveland Bunder has occupied the construction site of the interchange near Worli, halting the work. The fisherfolk have demanded that the navigation span between the upcoming two pillars to be 200 metres whereas BMC has proposed a span of 60 metres. The fisherfolk have said the proposed span will cut off their access to the traditional fishing areas. The proposed interchange is the last leg of the Coastal Road connecting it to the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.
Urging the authorities to engage with the fisherfolk and ensure a safe and adequate navigation span, the letter further stated, “It seems as though the MCGM (civic body), contractors and the police are out to create an environment of terror to suppress the efforts being taken by the community to defend their livelihoods and customary fishing grounds and spaces on land and in the sea.” It has also urged
BMC to stop resorting to intimidation from police.
“Since work on the interchange has not yet commenced, it is still possible to execute a design change to increase the span as demanded by the fisherfolk,” stated the letter.
A reply last month by the BMC to the fishermen had stated that the proposed navigation span is adequate, “The demand of for the 200 m navigation span was raised by you in a letter dated December 18, 2018, which was received by the MCGM from the fisheries department on December 26. This office (Coastal Road Department) in a letter dated 31 January 2019 and March 5, 2019, have informed both you and the fisheries department that the provided 60 m navigation span is adequate for the passage of fishermen’s boat.”