The Bombay High Court on Tuesday told the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the state government and fisheries department that they should have conducted a study of fishing communities and fish breeding habitats along the proposed coastal road project to ascertain the impact on livelihood.
Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar were hearing a petition filed by Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society Limited, stating that reclaiming the shoreline and construction of stilted roads for the project will affect the rights of fishing communities to pursue their livelihood. The petitioner told the court that there were about 995 fisherfolk in Worli Koliwada, who had 428 fishing trawlers. The project will block direct access to the sea, resulting in a loss of coastal resources, habitat and fish-breeding area, the petitioner said.
Chief Justice Patil said ideally, the authorities should have conducted a survey before beginning work on the project.
“Why do you need the court’s intervention to tell you to conduct the meeting?” Chief Justice Patil asked. Senior counsel Gayatri Singh, appearing for the petitioners, told the HC that 50,000 families were dependent on fishing for their livelihood. She said many fisherfolk had already been impacted.
To this, the bench said the BMC and state government should carry out an area-wise survey and make policies for rehabilitation and compensation for families affected by the project.
Chief Justice Patil also said, “Development shouldn’t be at the cost of this.” The counsel for the BMC, Anil Sakhare, said the civic body will make a policy to help the affected fisherfolk. He also informed the court that as of Tuesday, three machines were doing the boring work. He said so far, the fisherfolk at Worli were not affected.
Singh also told the court that the fisherfolk were not being allowed to cast their fishing nets and the authorities at the spot were preventing the fisherfolk from going about their daily jobs.