19 hectares of land to be reclaimed at Versova Beach for fishing harbour

ByPrayag Arora-Desai
Mar 22, 2023 12:59 AM IST

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Fisheries Development Corporation (MFDC) has proposed to reclaim just over 19 hectares of land from the sea at Versova Beach, for setting up a fishing harbour under the Centre’s Sagarmala initiative

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Fisheries Development Corporation (MFDC) has proposed to reclaim just over 19 hectares of land from the sea at Versova Beach, for setting up a fishing harbour under the Centre’s Sagarmala initiative.

HT Image
HT Image

This will be done by dredging up 5,29,548 cubic metres of sand from the intertidal area and using it within the site, and supplementing this with another 3,51,837 cubic metres of material sourced from elsewhere. For comparison, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC’s) Coastal Road project in South Mumbai has reclaimed 111 Ha. of land.

An environment impact assessment (EIA) report for the Versova fishing harbour, accessed by Hindustan Times this week, reveals, “The project is spread over area of 32.8 hectares. This involves reclaimed land of 19.19 hectares.”

The reclamation work is largely for the construction of two breakwaters that will jut out more than a 1km into the sea. The area between the breakwater will act as a basin for boats, around 13.5 hectares in area, and will be able to service a fleet of 900 vessels, including 500 trawlers and 400 bag or gill-net fishing vessels. In 2019, Versova harboured a fleet of 846 mechanised fishing vessels comprising 411 trawlers, 395 bag-net and 40 gill-net vessels.

“Fishermen should be given all the possible benefits, but the harbour can very well be built without having to reclaim CRZ-IB and CRZ-IVA areas, as the EIA report says. Versova Beach has become prone to severe erosion due to the construction of Coastal Road in the south,” said Stalin D, director of city-based NGO Vanashakti.

“Dumping of tetrapods and the construction of a sea-wall under the guise of anti-erosion measures has completely eliminated the natural character of the beach. The EIA report has no mention of these recent impacts, or how the construction of new hard structures will exacerbate erosion,” added Stalin.

On the whole, the project will involve creation of boat basin, two breakwaters, a reclamation bund at the mouth of the Malad Creek to protect the reclaimed structures, and a series of quays that will be complete with fish auction halls, net-mending sheds, dormitory, cold storage, a radio communication tower, admin building, vehicle and boat parking, ship repair yards and stations for dispensing boat fuel.

The harbour development at Versova is projected to directly benefit 6,140 fishermen and about 2,500 allied workers dealing with the distribution and marketing of the catch, as per the EIA report. The development of the harbour would also enhance Versova’s fish handling capacity from 28,856 tonnes annually (recorded in 2019-20) to just over 41,000 tonnes annually, per according to officials in the know.

An executive engineer with the fisheries department, who is involved with the project, said that the estimated cost of developing this harbour — a long-standing demand from locals -- is pegged at around 336 crore.

“There is a provision with a limit of 200 crore under the Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY). The project received terms of reference from the state govt. way back in June 2020, but there have been some delays in getting the EIA report done. The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority considered our request for Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance earlier this month. Work will be executed after receiving MCZMA clearance and environment clearance (EC),” the official said.

Fisherfolk welcomed the development with grave scepticism. “It’s one thing to give us a more developed facility. It is required. But all the city’s waste comes flowing out into our waters from the Malad Creek. The beach is littered with plastic year-round, and there barely any near-shore fishing possible at the mouth of the creek. The government should first fix these issues,” said Mohit Ramle, a Versova Koliwada resident and Mumbai president of the Akhil koli Samaj va Sanskruti Sanwardhan Sangh.

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