Three days before the high court decides on the commercial development of 22 villages in Alibaug, Raigad district, for a proposed special economic zone (SEZ), local residents met on Sunday to decide on the future course of action.
At a seminar ‘Vikas, Vinash and You’, environmental activists, urged the villagers to mobilise against what they termed the “land mafia” and to protect their farms against economic and environmental degradation.
“The main question is how a designated green zone is being converted into an industrial zone,” said Admiral L Ramdas, Alibaug resident who field a petition in 2007 against the proposed Indiabulls SEZ through approximately 100 RTI applications. Ramdas is also an advisor to the Bawees Gaon Bachao Samiti, a registered body of farmers protesting the SEZ.
The RTI application revealed that the lush rice fields and orchards acquired by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) would be handed over to private reality giant Indiabulls for a percentage of the profit.
On February 17, the Bombay High Court will deliver its decision on whether MIDC and Indiabulls can acquire the land from these villages. The verdict will not only affect the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farmers but will also affect nearly 5000 acres of fertile green cover that act as natural lungs for its congested neighbour, Mumbai.
HC advocate Sunil Dighe, who was instrumental in filing the petition against RIL’s proposed SEZ said, “We’re challenging the constitutionality of these proceedings. The villagers did not get a public hearing.”
Economic and environmental expert Dr Vijay Paranjpye said, “Not only will farming systems be destroyed, it will also adversely affect the area’s topography, its rich biodiversity, even its wind currents.”