Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s push towards the modification of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, 2011, has triggered stress among the fishing community across Maharashtra. The 2011 CRZ notification empowered the state government and parasternal bodies like BMC, MMRDA or SRA, among others with a stake over 51 per cent of the redevelopment plan. The Kolis or the fisherfolk community of Mumbai is frightened to lose the right of their ancestral properties as with the revised proposal, the private stakeholders will get the nod to develop the coastal area with a higher stake, while that of the government will mark down.
This is not the first time that the Kolis are conflicting with the government’s plan of reclamation and construction in coastal areas. Even in 2011, the Juhu Koliwada Moragaon Gaothan Vistaar Samiti stood against the same and voiced their requirement for open spaces around their houses for fishing activities. They believe that development activities in coastal areas will severely damage the environment, affect natives, and ‘will lead to the change in provisions for them as our Koliwada falls under CRZ 3 (less developed Koliwada in terms of infrastructure)’.
While the state government is making a hawkish effort to redevelop the shanties under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Housing for All by 2022’ project, this recent decision of allowing private ventures for the refurbishment of areas alongshore has irked the ‘original’ inhabitants’ of Mumbai. The Kolis have questioned the government’s intention of redevelopment as their demands of expansion and reconstruction rights of their houses were paid no heed by the officials in power. As per Maharashtra’s Gaothan Expansion Scheme, gaothans and Koliwadas are entitled to expand the boundaries of their locality by 200 metres every 10 years.
The city’s fishermen community’s demands for a legal demarcation of Koliwadas, ownership rights to their land and its protection from encroachment have all good grounds as this community banks only on fishing to earn their daily bread. Any development activity near the coastline results in no fish at the coast that pushes fishermen to put their lives at risk and venture into deep water for fishing.
Rajesh Mangela, a Koliwada resident said, “As per Swaminathan Committee’s 2009 review report about CRZ notification, the public sector is only allowed in coastal areas. With increasing population, every family needs affordable housing. The government has turned a blind eye towards our demand for land demarcation. They should consider our concerns as it will affect the Koli community’s livelihood.”
Moreover, MMRDA’s plan to make use of salt pan lands for affordable housing has made the environmentalists anxious. The state environment ministry has suggested that the buffer zone around coastlines should be reduced to 200 metres instead of the existing 500 metres. According to environmentalists, the salt pan lands are inter-tidal areas and the natural buffers during unabated rainfall; the open space helps in preventing flood situation in the island city. Without them, the draining of flood-water will get blocked and natural calamities like floods can be anticipated in near future.
Animal Husbandry Minister Mahadev Jankar stated, “Government is concerned about the welfare of the Koli community. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Nitin Gadkari have genuine development plans. We humbly request the Kolis to meet the Chief Minister if they have any objection to the new CRZ proposal.”
Fishermen community across Mumbai has warned to come on streets if the state government does not withdraw the proposal! Development of the city must not be comprised but that certainly should not affect the livelihood of any community residing across the state. The state governing body must have representatives from all sections of the society before they go for infrastructure developments or redevelopments of Mumbai or other parts of the state.
Social activist Godfrey Pimenta expressed, “People from Koliwadas are not encroachers. We have our own property card and we should not be compared with the slum dwellers. Builders find coastal areas profitable as it has the sea view and the state government is keen to protect the interest of builders. Instead of giving its stake to the private builders, the government itself can redevelop the area. Salt pan must also be protected to avoid environmental destruction. Redevelopment should not damage the interest of the Koli community.”