Mumbai Coastal Road Project: Koli Fishing Port Facing Final Closure? | Bombay News

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Cleveland Bunder is one of four artisanal fish landing centers at Worli Koliwada, which is one of Mumbai’s earliest fishing villages, existing since before the Seven Bombay Islands were merged by successive reclamation projects. state of the land in the 19th century. Now, say fishermen, the bunder is under serious threat of permanent closure due to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Coastal Road Project (CRP), arguably the city’s next frontier in land reclamation.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Aaditya Thackeray (and MP representing Worli constituency) did not respond to requests for comment.

To date, community leaders in Koli estimate that Cleveland Bunder supports at least a quarter of the roughly 500 families in Worli Koliwada who still depend entirely on artisanal fishing for a source of income. It provides a port for a diverse fleet of motorized and non-motorized boats, which range between 45 and 60 per day, and also employs several migrant fishworkers in addition to the Kolis.

Those operating out of the bunder – locals estimate it to be at least 100 years old – may soon find themselves unable to access their usual fishing grounds. A barrier to their movement, in the form of an exchange bridge to connect the CRP to the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL) is on the anvil. MCGM recently started preparing for construction of this segment of the controversial infra project, prompting nearly 200 boats from across the Worli fishing area to gherao a temporary jetty at the CRP construction site on October 14.

The plan and the problems encountered by the fishermen

The civic body plans to build two connecting bridges between the south end of the BWSL and the north end of the CRP, as part of a link that will allow smooth movement between the two. Like BWSL before it, the fishermen said this exchange would run alongside Cleveland Bunder and severely restrict the only shipping route available for boats venturing out to the high seas.

When the fishing boats leave the harbor, they cross a narrow, zigzagging path to their fishing grounds which stretch north near Mot Mauli (or Mount Mary) in Bandra to Walkeshwar in southern Mumbai. The boats pass between two pillars (about 30 meters apart) which support the Bandra-Worli maritime link.

The intertidal and subtidal areas of the beach are extremely rocky and this route must be maneuvered with great skill to avoid accidents. “We have been using the same sailing route for generations. After the arrival of the Bandra Worli Sea Link, the road became narrower and we have to be very careful, ”says Rupesh Patil, member of the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Vyavsay Sahakari Society.

Unlike cars on the road, steering a boat in open water is more complicated, with wind and waves playing a major role in the safety of the boat and its passengers. “A strong gust of wind can send our boats crashing into the pillars. This happened to many boats during the construction of the BWSL. In addition, more than one boat cannot cross the span at a time. The pillars slowed us down and made just reaching our fishing grounds a daily risk, ”says Deepak Vasudev, a fourth generation artisanal fisherman from Worli Koliwada.

According to the design plans for phase 2 of the CRP – from Baroda Palace to Haji Ali to BWSL – four more pillars are to be erected directly in this precarious shipping route, which is used daily by fishermen. BMC proposed to leave a space of 60 meters between these pillars, which the fishermen say is just too small.

“We need a range of at least 200 meters between the pillars to ensure safe passage. There is no doubt that if BMC continues according to its original plans, we will have to shut down Cleveland Bunder completely. The boats will be useless because we will not be able to get them out, ”says Nitesh Patil, director of the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Vyavsay Sahakari Society (WKNVSS). Patil said they have appealed to several authorities to consider redesigning the interchange.

Not a recent request

The first time that the fishermen of Worli Koliwada raised the issue of their navigation channel dates back to at least October 2016, followed by representations sent to the MCGM, the fisheries department and various other branches of the state government in April 2017, November and December 2018.

In another, dated October 2020, Vijay Kishor Patil (President of WKNVSS) wrote: “The construction of two additional bridges in front of Cleveland Bunder … will completely cut off our access to the sea and the coastal areas that make up our area of peach. . “

“It is therefore imperative that the design be changed and that the distance (between the pillars proposed for the CR-BWSL interchange) be increased to at least 200 meters, as we have emphasized in countless representations in the past” , continues the letter.

Over a year and at least two other such representations later, the fishermen say they have received no formal acknowledgment of their concerns from any authority.

“We have met with all kinds of officials to discuss this issue time and time again. All we are told is that adequate compensation will be given to those affected by the project. But that’s not what we want. We want to keep fishing and there is no way to do that if these pillars come up. What profession will we teach our children? asks Marshal Koli, a resident of Worli Koliwada and spokesperson for Akhil Maharashtra Machimaar Kruti Samiti, a state-wide union of fishing workers.

Work in progress

The situation, which weighed on Cleveland Bunder for several years, quickly reached its climax. On October 14, the Hindustan Construction Company (which is responsible for building CRP Lot 2, from Baroda Palace to Haji Ali to BWSL) anchored three buoys in the fishing waters just off Cleveland Bunder, to facilitate movement barges and tugs in the area.

“The anchors are there to support the barges that will transport construction materials and machinery from our jetty to the construction site. We are about to start digging the foundation for the bridge. It is the last branch of the southern section of the coastal road and its completion is scheduled for 2023, ”an official from the BMC coastal roads department confirmed to HT. However, when asked for a comment regarding the fishermen’s shipping route, the official declined to comment, as did two other people directly involved in the project.

Vijay Nighot, chief engineer of BMC’s coastal roads department, said: “There will be no overhaul of the interchange.”

HT has also contacted officials from the Fisheries Department but has not received a response on this matter. Former fisheries minister Aslam Shaikh, to whom the fishermen wrote directly, could not be reached for comment despite attempts. However, one official (formerly District Fisheries Officer) said while seeking anonymity: “It is up to BMC to take appropriate action as the coastal road is their project. It is not for the Department of Fisheries to intervene in these disputes. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute has already conducted a social impact assessment of the project and a survey has been commissioned by the Tata Social Science Institute (TISS) to give fishermen appropriate compensation.

Request for design change to continue

Shweta Wagh, an architect and researcher who has closely mapped the impact of CRP on fishing communities in Worli, noted that the rehabilitation has already severely affected the livelihoods of the community and their demands can be easily satisfied through a design change. Since physical work on the bridge has not yet started and the coastal road itself has undergone design changes including the addition of 21 hectares of reclaimed land, a change is certainly possible, Wagh said.

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