October 20, 2019 2:22:07 am
Hoardings, banners and posters announcing a total boycott of the October 21 Assembly elections greet people as soon as they cross Chinchoti village in Palghar, around 10 km from Dahanu. “We want to send a clear message to all politicians, they are not welcome here,” Dharnidhar Patil, 56, says.
Over 1.5 lakh voters from 10 villages in Palghar have boycotted the Assembly elections to protest against the proposed Wadhwan port in the Arabian Sea, near their village. The port, a proposed project of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and Maharashtra Maritime Board, is being built as an extension to the existing ports in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
“The location is very favourable as there is an ease to get the ships to port due to the topography. The plan was that JNPT will helm the project with 74 per cent stake in it, but we are also checking the possibility of a privately owned project,” an official from the maritime board says. The project, however, is yet to get the Central government’s approval.
Mukund Patil (38), a resident of the Wadhwan village, says villagers of Chinchoti, Wadhwan, Varol and nearby padas have been protesting against the project since 2015, when it was proposed. “The government wants to send all the coal-bearing and oil-leaking ships to our side, so as to keep the urban waters clean,” he adds.
According to villagers, if the port is built there, it would spell the end to their livelihood. “We understand and respect the sea. Already, because of reckless development downstream, the sea has been pushed further in-land in our coastline. If there is a reclamation of 5,000 acre, our villages will go underwater eventually,” claims Raghunath Patil, 55, a former sarpanch of Wadhwan village.
Most villagers, especially the Adivasis, Patil says, depend on fishing as a means of their livelihood. “Where are they to go? Already fish are dying, because of pollution from the cities,” he says.
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