Fisherfolk fight to keep BMC's Central Park at bay

Updated: Dec 12, 2018, 12:20 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

Fishing community from the Cuffe Parade area stalls survey for project, protesting that the proposed park will eat into parking space for their boats, apart from reducing fishing territory

The Cuffe Parade fishing community won't allow the BMC to rock the boat with its ambitious plan to reclaim land in the Cuffe Parade bay and develop a 300-acre park there. Protesting that the park would threaten their livelihood, the fisherfolk have blocked the entry of consultants that the civic body had commissioned to survey the area.

mid-day had reported earlier that the corporation had grand plans to build a massive green space, along the lines of New York's Central Park, by reclaiming the fishing cove between the NCPA stretch at Nariman Point and Geeta Nagar in Colaba. Last month, in a meeting with civic officials at the A ward office, the fishing community said that they would not allow the park to come up.

Civic sources revealed they had not allowed entry to consultants either. The civic body had appointed an agency to figure out the area that needs to be reclaimed; the slum population, if any; and whether or not mangroves will be impacted by the project. Apart from this, the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO-GOA) and NEERI too have been roped in to study the depth of the sea and prepare a detailed impact report, which will be later presented to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone and Management Authority (MCZMA), and forwarded to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for approval.

However, fishermen were of the opinion that the civic body should have taken them into confidence before planning the project, and addressed their apprehensions. They added that the government had failed to fulfill several promises in the past, and now they do not want the BMC to make anymore futile promises.

Park vs parking
The bone of contention is that apart for eating into their fishing territory, the park would also reduce the parking space for their boats. Bhuvaneshwar Dhanu, a member of the Macchimar Sarvoday Co-operative Society, Cuffe Parade, said, "We are not just opposing this now, but will protest against the project, if needed. There is no consideration for our future, and they are just disturbing our livelihood completely. We stopped them from surveying the land and will do that again, if need be. There are about 3,500 members in our society and about 350 boats in use; this project will eat into our space and growth."

While BMC officials said that they were ready to offer them the required space for parking, the community demanded that the Corporation also allot extra space to accommodate future needs.

Officialspeak
A senior civic official, said, "We asked them about the space that they would require and what mitigation measures can be carried out, such as providing alternative waterway and construction of jetties, so that their livelihood is not hampered.

Still there was no cooperation from the fishermen and they chose to oppose the project. Currently, the survey has been stalled because of this." "There were some objections of the fishing community, which I have forwarded to my senior officials," said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, A ward.

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