Mumbai: Fisherfolk from across the Konkan Coast in the state will, on October 2, hold a black flag protest in opposition to the upcoming Vadhavan Port, which the Shinde-Fadnavis government has pledged to pursue aggressively. On that day, fish markets from Colaba (in the south) to Zai in Palghar (the northernmost fishing village in Maharashtra, near the Gujrat border) will remain shut, and fishing activities will be suspended across this coastal belt.
“Some fishing villages even further south, in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, have pledged their support to us. Households in Palghar that depend on fishing will put up a black flag to mark their opposition to this project,” said Vaibhav Vaze, secretary of Vadhvan Bunder Virodhi Samiti.
With the intensity of protests against the port intensifying, earlier this month, thousands of villagers decorated their Ganesh pandals with messages to ‘Boycott Vadhavan Port’.
Hindustan Times was the first to report, on September 20, that the project is likely to impact the livelihoods of 20,809 fisherfolk, comprising 5,333 families and living in 16 fishing villages within a 10km radius of the port. This is as per a previously undisclosed survey by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) to assess the impact of the proposed Vadhavan Port on coastal fisheries in Palghar district’s eco-sensitive Dahanu taluka.
Experts have emphasised that this figure (of 20,809 project-affected fishers) is likely a gross underestimation of the port’s impact on coastal livelihoods, as fishers from Colaba, Vasai, Uttan and Mira-Bhayandar also frequent the area, which is a nursery for juvenile fish to mature.
Notably, the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) has recently “reclassified” the list of permissible regulated activities in the Dahanu taluka eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) to allow the construction of ports and harbours. The ministry issued an office memorandum (OM) in this regard on May 26 this year, drawing the ire of environmentalists.
“In 1998, the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority had clearly prohibited the construction of the project on ecological grounds. This order has not been challenged by any party before any court, and that stands final. This attempt at reviving the project clearly violates it,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust, a city-based environment non-profit.