The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has withdrawn its tender notice inviting bids for development of various tourism projects on lands admeasuring nearly 50 lakh square metres, which surround fishermen colonies of Gorai and Manor. The decision was communicated to the Bombay High Court on Thursday during hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Gorai Machhimar Sahakari Sanstha, Manor Fishermen Sarvodaya Sanstha and some other fishermen groups.
Government pleader Dhairyasheel Nalawade informed the court that the state government had appointed a committee, which examined the issue and found out that the tender issued by MTDC was contrary to the zoning pattern of the land. The lands fall in eco-sensitive zones because of which MTDC has been ordered to cancel the tender, added Nalawade.
AJ Almeida, counsel for the petitioner organisations, contended that conversion of the lands from ‘no-development zone’ into ‘tourism zone’ had jeopardised lives of the local populace. The petitioner organisations had challenged the state government’s decision of 1994, which converted the large area falling within ‘no-development zone’ into ‘recreation and tourism development zone’.
In April 2008, state had appointed Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) as planning authority for the tourism project, which was to be executed by MTDC. Accordingly, MTDC had issued an advertisement inviting bids for development of various tourist attractions like a marina, theme park, golf club with a hotel, etc.
The fishermen societies challenged the decision, contending that the state government had recognised rights of the fishermen to use the land for their fishing activities through its circular issued on February 4, 1983. The petitioner organisations further said that the local fishermen were using the land for their fishing activities since time immemorial, and the conversion would ruin lives of thousands of small fishermen from the area. They want the conversion of land to be declared illegal.
The division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice DY Chandrachud has admitted the PIL for final hearing on the issue of vesting rights of the land to local fishermen in accordance with the February 1983 government circular.