The livelihood of 1.5 lakh fishermen residing across five settlements in south Mumbai will be affected due to the construction of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial statue in the Arabian Sea, said members of Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti (AMMKS), a local fishing community on Friday.
The allegation comes days after the state asked the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Pune, to dismiss a petition against the proposed construction of the statue.
Earlier this year, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis directed the Ministry of Finance to make budgetary allocations for the project that is likely to be completed by 2019.
The 192m-high statue has been planned on a rocky outcrop of 15.96 hectares, roughly 1.5km from Raj Bhavan and 3.5 km into the Arabian Sea.
Fishermen from settlements near Cuffe Parade Machimar Nagar, Nariman Point, Geeta Nagar (near Navy Nagar), near Raj Bhawan and Backbay have 1,500 large boats and 450 small boats along the stretch.
“The government is not interested in protecting the environment and the rights of the fishing community. Our livelihood is at stake. Most of these families do not have an alternative source of income,” said Damodar Tandel, president, AMMKS that held a press conference at the press club.
“We are not against the project at areas such as Mahalaxmi but will not let it come up 3km into the sea,” he said.
He added that their daily catch from the area amounts to Rs2 crore in the domestic market and Rs1,000 crore annually through exports.
“We will carry out an agitation with 5,000 boats at the proposed site when the state decides to organise the ‘bhoomi poojan’ (foundation laying ceremony),” said Tandel.
“It is strange that the Union environment ministry gave an environment clearance to the project even after a National Institute of Oceanography report suggests the presence of a large marine biodiversity,” said environmentalist Pradip Patade.
The fishing community will present their arguments through an affidavit during the next hearing scheduled on November 18 at NGT, Pune.
“We have obtained clearances not only from the Union environment ministry but from agencies specialising in the environment. As far as the fishermen are concerned, more than 20 fishing community settlements from south Mumbai have agreed to the memorial being constructed. The allegations by the fishing community are baseless, unsubstantiated and only for the purpose of gaining publicity,” said Vinayak Mete, head of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Smarak Samiti, the group appointed by the state to implement the project.