Use Rs 3,600 cr on preserving Shivaji's decrepit forts instead: Activists on mid-sea memorial
Restoring the Maratha warrior king's forts would be an apt homage and better use of money rather than destroying marine life in Arabian Sea for new memorial, say activists
Art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai (right, in white) with his team and the statue of Shivaji Maharaj that will be taken to the memorial site tomorrow. Pics/Bipin Kokate
The state government's decision to construct a 192-metre mid-sea memorial for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj has not found favour with environmentalists, activists and citizens. They want the administration to instead spend the whopping R3,600 crore — the estimated budget for the memorial — on preserving the Maratha king's forts across Maharashtra that are in a dilapidated condition. An online petition has also been started to stop the construction of the monument, which has gathered 15,000 signatures.
The construction of the mega memorial will begin after a 'jalpoojan' ceremony tomorrow at the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the project has been mired in controversy, especially after 2009, when the Congress-led Democratic Front government announced their plans of constructing the statue and building a memorial around it in the middle of the Arabian Sea. This hasn't deterred the previous government, or the current one.
The statue being carried on Girgaum beach to the float that will ferry it to the spot of the proposed memorial
CM, visit Shivaji's fort
"Rather than wasting money, the Chief Minister should visit the forts of Shivaji Maharaj which are in dilapidated condition and spend the money for the memorial on restoring the forts. I feel bad looking at the dilapidated condition of the forts like Raigad, Sinhagad, Shivneri and others because the government is doing nothing to restore them," said Ratnakar Sawant, an avid trekker. The condition of other important forts like Purandhar, Torna and Rajgad is no different.
Will impact marine life, too
Activists have also alleged that the project will have a negative impact on marine life and biodiversity along with the livelihood of fishermen, but the state government is still keen on going through with it. Damodar Tandel, a leader of the fishermen's community along with activist Pradip Patade has also approached the National Green Tribunal opposing the Shivaji statue.
Anand Pendharkar from NGO SPROUTS opined, "The government is being undemocratic and is forcing the monument on the city. Besides, the Arabian Sea is rich in biodiversity right from corals to Gorgonian fans, sponges, related tropical fishes, crabs, cowries, brittle stars and many marine animals. While existing Shivaji monuments with a high tourism value are in a decrepit state, why are we wasting more public money on a newer structure, which will destroy livelihoods, the marine ecosystem and pollute the local environment. This is against Shivaji's philosophy."
Stalin D from NGO Vanashakti said, "This idea of a memorial in the sea is nothing but an exercise in vote bank politics. It is an excuse to squander thousands of crores of rupees with obvious benefits to all involved in executing the project."
"In a state with records of infant deaths due to starvation, this kind of wasteful expenditure is a slap on the faces of the poor. The project will also have a negative impact on the marine biodiversity," he added.
Earlier this year, MNS chief Raj Thackeray had also opposed the idea of having a statue in the Arabian Sea and had said that the government should start the restoration of the forts in Maharashtra as they are the real memorials of the king.
Stalin D, NGO Vanshakti
'The real homage to Shivaji Maharaj would have been upgrading and maintaining Raigad fort and creating a world class attraction there as he lived and ruled from there. That place is in bad shape, but these politicians don't care as upgrading and maintaining Raigad would be a cheaper affair with lesser scope of making money.'
Pradip Patade, environmentalist
'Non moving animals like corals, sponges, sea fans, marine algae and other marine animals like crabs, shell fish, which prefer this habitat are going to affected due to this project. This is a loss to the marine biodiversity of that area.'
Kedar Gore, environmentalist
'Spending Rs 3,600 crore is an extremely bad idea. This money can be utilised for creating dams that can take care of the state's water scarcity. Restoration of forts built by Shivaji Maharaj can also be undertaken. Our politicians need a crash course in understanding the philosophy and thought process of Shivaji Maharaj.'
Water activist Amla Ruia speaks to mid-day