Next week, the fisheries department is set to distribute the first tranche of compensation to the fishermen affected by the construction of the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL).
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has provided the department Rs 20 crore to disburse compensation to around 1,500 fishermen. “We have received the first installment from MMRDA and will distribute it to the fishermen next week,” said Rajendra Jadhav, Joint Commissioner (Fisheries).
The construction of the 22-km sealink is set to disrupt fishing activity in the Thane creek and the MMRDA is financially compensating the fishermen for the same. The compensation will be based on the extent of damage the project will cause to the livelihood of the fishermen and the gear they use for fishing. In all, around 3,000 have been affected.
While for fishermen, who will be permanently affected by the construction of the bridge, the MMRDA will provide Rs 6.14 lakh as compensation, those who would be temporarily affected will receive half of the amount.
“Fishermen, who would do fishing in the area where the piers of the bridge are being constructed, will be permanently affected, as they would not be able to fish there anymore. Those who are going to be affected only during the time of construction are the temporarily affected ones.
“The amount has been given to the fisheries department, as it is the nodal agency and will disburse the funds to the fishermen,” said S N Gajbhiye, former chief scientist, CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography, and a member of the committee set up to decide on the compensation amount.
The Rs 17,800-crore project will be funded by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). “The Japanese government is keen that we compensate the fishermen who will be affected by the project appropriately,” said Gajbhiye.
To identify the affected fishermen, advertisements were issued in local newspapers, calling out to them. The consultants appointed by MMRDA interacted with the fishermen to understand the nature of damage to be borne by them. At least 12 villages, on both the Sewri and Nhava Sheva side, were surveyed to identify the fishermen.
The committee, consisting of Thane fisheries commissioner and Raigad collector among others, relied on a National Green Tribunal (NGT) ruling from 2014 to decide the compensation framework. “The NGT, in its hearing, had directed Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust to compensate the fishermen and had given a formula for the same. We have followed their guidelines to arrive at our compensation policy,” said Sanjay Khandare, MMRDA Additional Metropolitan Commissioner.
While government agencies had earlier compensated Project Affected Person (PAP) for the loss borne by them for different projects, MMRDA claims this is the first time that it has been done in this manner.
“This is a first-of-its-kind move, where before a project has began, a proper framework of compensation has been made and villages surveyed so that the affected people could be identified. We involved the fishermen as well and asked them for documents for verification,” said Khandare.
However, the affected fishermen feel that monetary compensation alone is not sufficient. “The money they are offering is not enough as compensation. They should be giving us jobs in the project as well. Also, we had demanded that they should first provide us compensation and then start work. But they have not heeded to any of our demands and started work on the project. Governments promise many things before starting work on a project but once it is completed, they forget all their promises,” said Vishwanath Koli, president of Raigad district’s Akhil Bharatiya Machhimar Samaj Samiti.
They also feel that the real stakeholders are never really involved in the project. “During the construction of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, we knew that it was an important project for the city’s transport but nothing was done for us. When officials hold meetings, they do not involve the affected people and buy support,” said Damodar Tandel, chief of Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti.