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What the fish!

Updated on: 14 January,2024 06:51 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Bhoomika Singh | mailbag@mid-day.com

mid-day finds buildings that were supposed to address the issue of fish waste at Sassoon Docks… overrun by fish waste!

What the fish!

Cleaning, de-shelling and auctioning of fish out in the open at the Sassoon Dock has led to a permanent stench in the area

Key Highlights

  1. Renovation of the Sassoon Docks in Colaba was necessary in order to address age-old issues
  2. The renovation plans included an ice factory for proper treatment of waste
  3. The HC had made its observation while hearing a PIL filed by residents

Last year, the Bombay High Court, in an interim hearing, had stated that renovation of the Sassoon Docks in Colaba was necessary in order to address age-old issues connected to the thriving fishery hub inside. The renovation plans, sanctioned way back in 2016, included an ice factory for proper treatment of waste, an auctioning hall for fishermen to avoid auctions in the open and a shed for the fisherfolk to rest.


Earlier this week, mid-day visited the Docks and saw that all the above structures had been partially built—and covered in fish scales, prawn shells and other waste. The HC had made its observation while hearing a PIL filed by residents of buildings around the docks. The PIL’s demands are basic and simple—that the fish waste be processed on the dock, retail sale of fish be conducted elsewhere and de-shelling of prawns be stopped on the pavement outside the Dock.


“The condition of the dock is so dirty and filthy and because of all peels covering a vast area has created a bad stench that it lingers in the air all across the neighbourhood, and makes it so difficult for residents around to breathe,” says Tripti Narula, one of the petitioners and a resident of the area. 


Partially built auctioning halls and sheds for fisherfolk are all filled with fish waste
Partially built auctioning halls and sheds for fisherfolk are all filled with fish waste

The hustle and bustle begins around 3.30 am every day, with fishermen bringing in their catch from the sea. Prawns are de-shelled, fish are cleaned, auctions are held and by afternoon, all that remains is the pungent smell. It is not just a residual stench left behind, it rises from tons of fish scales, shells and other waste that is dumped at the docks, with no mechanism to clean it up. This waste is then loaded onto trucks to be disposed of, and the dirty water flows out of the trucks and onto the streets, making the area next to uninhabitable. To add to this, the women who work at the docks are also seen washing clothes and dishes in the water, worsening the problem. 

“The modernisation plan of the Sassoon dock by the Maharashtra Fisheries Development Corporation had received approval for the renovation at an estimated budget of Rs 52 crore. Nothing happened and today, the cost for the same work is pegged at Rs 96 crore,” says retired Admiral IC Rao, Indian Navy, who also stays in the same locality. Rao has been actively helping the residents for tasks such as filing Right To Information requests to framing the PIL. 

When mid-day visited the area earlier this week, we found a skeleton of a structure where the ice factory should have been by now, a partly constructed auctioning hall meant for every day transactions and a half-complete shed for fishermen—all of them overrun by fish scales, prawn shells and other waste. The only tank at the dock, which supplies water to the entire locality, is in dire need of repair and the water is dotted with scores of abandoned boats of all sizes, further adding to the chaos.  

A senior official with the MFDC, on condition of anonymity, told mid-day that the problem, as always, was the money. “Despite its size, the fishing dock does not generate as much revenue for the Department as the cargo dock does. As a result, addressing the issues related to fishing is not really a priority and hence, it is always overlooked,” the official said. For now, all the residents can do is hope.

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