The fishing community from Worli Koliwada, which has long opposed the coastal road project, are now counting on a letter sent by the regional office of Mumbai division of the fisheries department to the fisheries commissioner, suggesting a reconsideration of the no-objection certificate (NOC) granted to the Rs 12,000-crore project.
The letter, which was sent from the Regional Deputy Commissioner of Fisheries, Mumbai Division, to Fisheries Commissioner of Maharashtra on January 4, states that the regional office had acknowledged the concerns expressed by the fisherfolk and had recommended that due to the project, fishing activities in the construction area were under threat and the NOC granted from the department should be reconsidered.
The letter states that for ongoing reclamation from Nariman Point to Worli area, the project will impact fishing. “Though pillars of the project will not impact fishing in the area much but for fishing boats entering the sea, for fishing gap between two pillars, as per the demand from local fishermen, it is necessary to keep 200 metres, and subsequently the BMC commissioner should be informed by Fisheries Commissioners on this issue,” it said.
“Fishermen express that reclamation in the sea from Nariman Point to Worli will destroy breeding sites of fish, prima facie it appears partially true so scientific study is necessary,” letter states.
The department had also suggested a joint meeting of all the stakeholders, including local elected representatives, BMC officials, fisheries officials and the local fishing community, to take them into confidence.
“The fisheries department had clearly mentioned that coastal reclamation and less gap between two pillars will impact livelihoods and NOC should be reconsidered, but even after three months nothing has been done. Also, the NOC granted to the BMC for the project is conditional, as it (the letter) clearly says concerns of local fisherfolk should be taken into account before work starts, but the BMC did nothing,” Worli Koliwada Nakhawa Matsaya Vyvsay Sahkari Society president Harishchandra Nakhawa told The Indian Express.
Nakhawa said the matter was now in court and the letter was their only hope. “The officers from the department are under pressure as it is a government project, but nobody is thinking about our future.”
The fishing community has already filed a petition before the Bombay High Court, seeking a stay on the coastal road. Last week, the court had slammed the civic body and said it might stop the work if rules were broken.
The coastal road is also facing opposition from citizen groups and green activists. Architect Shweta Wagh of Collective for Spatial Alternatives (CSA), who recently conducted a study on impact of coastal reclamation, pointed out that the project will destroy artisan fishing practices in shallow waters in Worli.
When contacted, Arun Vidhale, Fisheries Commissioner, Maharashtra, said, “I cannot comment on the issue as matter is sub judice.”
A senior official from the fisheries department said, “As per the direction of the court, we have appointed an expert team, which is conducting a study for the fisherfolk along the project site to check the impact on fishing activities. Once it is completed, it will be submitted before the court.”