Palghar fishermen demand legal ownership of Koliwada land

The MCZMA has stated that it would look into the objections of fishermen and the expert panel would take a call on them.

Mumbai: The fishermen community from Vasai and Dahanu areas of Palghar district have objected to the draft coastal zone management plan (CZMP) maps for Thane and Palghar, which were released in November by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority. Fishermen said that they should have ownership rights to the land where they have been residing from pre-Independence days. Vasai fishermen stated that since they are the original inhabitants of Mumbai and its suburban areas, they have right over their land.

“The Koli community has been here for decades, yet there is a feeling of non-confidence among the habitants that the area may also come under SRA due to slum encroachments over the years. They have been asking for official ownership of land so no projects can take their land away in the name of rehabiliation,” said Sameer Vartak, coordinator for the Prayavaran Sanvardhan Samiti (PSS), an environmental NGO in Vasai. The NGO has compiled all the objections of Kolis while stating that there is also a need to publish the maps in Marathi.

The community fears that since Koliwadas were not demarcated in the CZMP map, they could be treated as slum dwellers and their habitations would come under SRA projects. Vasai fishermen fear that SRA projects will result in dislocation of the inhabitants from their land at the time of the construction and impact their lifestyle with smaller living spaces eventually. Apart from the demand for ownership of land, they highlighted the need to keep the buffer zone of the coastline intact. “The state environment ministry has suggested that the buffer zone around coastlines should be reduced to 200 meters instead of the existing 500 meters. It will lead to more private projects and hotels along the coastline. We have opposed the suggestion,” said Dilip Mathak, a fishermen from Vasai.

The MCZMA has stated that it would look into the objections of fishermen and the expert panel would take a call on them.

“The process of demarcating the Koliwadas and providing ownership to the land does not lie with MCZMA, but with district collectors. We give security to the Koliwadas that are approved by the collector.” said a senior MCZMA official.

Biz halved in last 20 yrs: fisherfolk

The Palghar-based fishing community has protested against the pollution of coastal areas due to discharge of sewage and chemical waste from industrial units, which adversely impacts its business. The community has claimed that over the last 20 years, their business has decreased by 50 per cent due to the excessive chemical and sewage pollution at the coastline. The MCZMA officials admitted that Palghar and Raigad coasts have deteriorated over time and will be proposing a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) for the areas.

Fishermen from Vasai do not lay fishing nets at the coastline or in the shallow waters as they struggle to find fish at the coastline. “It was in 1995 when fish were last found in the shallow waters of Vasai coast. Now there are no fish at the coast and we have to venture into deep water for fishing activities,” said Sanjay Sylvester Koli, chairman of Vasai Machhimar Sarvoday Sarkari Sanstha.

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