The state government can open the bids for mechanical sand dredging on a part of the riverbed at Raigad. However, the Bombay high court has restrained them from awarding the contract till January 14.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice SJ Vazifdar, on Monday, restrained the state from awarding the contract for the 4.5km stretch for mechanical sand dredging while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Matsya va Raeti Vyavasaik Sevabhavi Saunstha, Dasgaon, the association of fisher folks.
The Saunstha has challenged the government resolution (GR) dated October 25, wherein it substantially altered its policy with regard to sand dredging on the riverbeds at Raigad. This adversely affects the fisher folks’ community who are engaged in manual excavation of sand after due permission from the Collector.
The petition was filed last week after the state issued notices calling for bids to excavate two stretches of 11km and 4.5km along the banks of the rivers Savitri and Kalnadi.
The bids for the 4.5km stretch will open on Tuesday, whereas the bids for 11km stretch will open on January 18.
Gayatri Singh and Kranti LC, advocates for the petitioner, argued that the resolution will not only affect the rights of the fishermen to earn their livelihood, but also drastically alter the fragile ecological balance in an otherwise precarious situation beyond restoration.
Following large-scale industrilisation in the area in 1992-93 and affluent being drained in water, there was drop in fish. So, the fishermen were forced to shift to manual excavation, petition states.
Mechanised form of excavation resort to dredgers and suction pumps and in a day can excavate 70 brasses (via suction pumps employing four persons) and over 250 brasses (via dredgers employing 10-15 persons).
Whereas manual dredging by diving to the depth of the riverbed, using buckets to excavate sand from the riverbed, can at the most lead to the excavation of two units of brass, by one boat of the fisher-folk, which generates employment for at-least seven members.
“This form of traditional excavation is an environmentally sustainable process. Not only does the quantum of sand excavated get replenished, it does not alter bio-diversity of the area,” adds the petition.
Seeking quashing of the GR the petitioner said the state formulate regulations for the issuing of permits for the excavation of sand by manual dredging.