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Fishermen raise concerns at IWTP hearing

While the public hearing organised by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) for the Inland Water Transport Project (IWTP) on the west coast of Mumbai, connecting Nariman Point to Borivli took place on Friday without much opposition, the members of the fisherman community raised a few questions.

The IWTP hearing in progress
The IWTP hearing in progress

The fishermen present at the hearing had concerns over the water pollution that may take place due to the oil spill caused by frequent movement of the hovercraft. The members have requested that the decision be taken only after all environmental aspects have been looked into.

A hearing was also organised at the Suburban District Collector’s office in Bandra for suburban residents, as well as for residents of central and south Mumbai at the Social Service League hall in Parel. Chandrashekhar Oak, collector, Mumbai (city), was also present for the public hearing along with MSRDC official Bipin Shrimali.

Umakant Patil, a fisherman from Worli who participated in the meeting, said, “We aren’t against development but we fear that continuous movement of the hovercraft may cause an oil spill resulting in water pollution and affecting marine life and fishing activity.”

However, the fact that the hearing was conducted without any hassles is a good sign for the MSRDC as this takes the project a step closer to implementation. Now the MPCB will prepare the report and send it to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for a final approval.

Sources from MSRDC told Sunday MiD DAY that in the next three-four months the IWTP will receive final approval. The consultant who gave a presentation on the same also claimed that the project has been planned in a proper manner and all issues related to the environment have been taken into consideration. “While the project is implemented we will also be doing an environmental study and every six months a report will be submitted to the MoEF,” said the consultant.

The channel for the route has been planned as per the guidelines set by the Mumbai Maritime Board. “The construction of the passenger terminus has been planned in such a way that it will take place on stilts so there is no need to reclaim land,” said Subhash Nage, chief engineer, MSRDC.

The fishermen also raised concerns over the fact that their nets might be destroyed owing to the navigation channel and hovercraft, to which an MSRDC official said, “We will make sure that this does not happen and if it does we will pay the damage.”

A highly placed source from MSRDC told this newspaper that the public hearing for the east coast will also be conducted in a similar manner. “We will give the residents staying along the east coast of Mumbai including fishermen, the opportunity to raise their doubts and suggestions. We will try and explain how we are taking all necessary precautions while implementing the project.

Looking at the success of the public hearing organised for the west coast, we are confident that the hearing for the east coast will also go smoothly without any problems,” an MSRDC official said. The contract for the eastern coast has been awarded to J Kumar Foundation Associates for developing jetties at Ferry Wharf and Nerul at the cost of Rs 308.28 crore. DBM-Supreme Infrastructure will develop Mandwa jetty at the expense of Rs 63.71 crore. 

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