The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) ambitious coastal road project could prove to be a chink in the Shiv Sena’s armor, especially in the Mumbai South constituency, as the party heads to the Lok Sabha polls.
While fisherfolk have expressed concerns over loss of livelihood due to the project, residents of the area have repeatedly questioned its environmental viability. The protests recently took a political turn after both the Congress and the BJP both extended support to the agitators.
Last month, during a meeting between a citizens’ group and BMC officials, Congress leader and former MP Milind Deora and BJP MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha had supported the concerns of the local residents.
Last Sunday, Lodha had also joined the local residents during a march against reclamation for coastal road project. Congress leader Susieben Shah was also a part of the agitation.
Residents told The Indian Express that they did not want politicisation of the issue. “After the protest started, political leaders from the Congress and the BJP lent their support, but we don’t want this to become a political issue. Our only concern is damage to marine ecology due to reclamation for this project. We don’t want any political interference in our fight. This is purely a citizen’s movement,” an agitator, who is a resident of Breach Candy area, said.
Fishermen from Worli Koliwada, who are opposing the coastal road as they fear the project could destroy their livelihood, have also expressed discontent with the Sena, saying the party had failed to keep the promise to resolve their woes.
President of Worli Koliwada Nakhawa Matsaya Vyvsay Sahkari Society, Harishchandra Nakhawa said, “People from the Koli community are upset with the Shiv Sena. Even after multiple promises to help resolve the issue, the party has done nothing so far. The BMC has refused to consider our demands. We are only demanding that the gap between pillars should be increased so that our boats can pass easily.”
He said the community was now dependent on the court’s decision in the matter.
Worli fishermen had first opposed the project in November 2018, a month before he first phase of coastal road project was inaugurated. During the event, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had promised that the party will ensure that livelihood of the Kolis were not affected.
Earlier, Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar (Shiv Sena) had visited the area and assured that the demands of the fishermen would be taken into account. BJP MLC Ramesh Patil had also supported the fishermen.
First phase of coastal road — 9.96 km stretch between Marine Drive and Worli Koliwada — will pass through the constituencies of one MP and three MLAs – Sena leader Arvind Sawant is MP from South Mumbai (Colaba to Worli), while BJP leaders Raj Purohit (from Coalaba), Mangal Prabhat Lodha (from Malabar Hill) and Sena’s Sunil Shinde (from Worli) are the sitting MLAs.
Citizens from Worli Seaface, Breach Candy, Napean Sea Road and Malabar Hill areas have also protested against the reclamation for the project.
Fishermen are demanding that the gap between two pillars of coastal road should be more than the proposed 200 feet, so that boat movement remain unaffected in the waters.
They are also demanding that there be no reclamation near Priyadarhsani Park, since the area is a breeding site of fishes. They are also seeking that construction sludge be cleared after the project is completed.