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Sunday, July 26, 2009

NEAA directs Gujarat Government to secure livelihoods of Mundra Fisherfolk

Nearly 10,000 fisherfolk are at threat of being displaced by the development of Adani port and SEZ along Mundra coast. Apart from the threat of displacement, the issue of decline in fish production due to pollution caused by the port activities and the SEZ industries has cast a doubt on the future of the fishing community.

When the Water Front Development Project’s public hearing came up in Nov 2008, the fisherfolks had raised their concerns about the likely loss of livelihoods and the threat to fishing due to the project. They had also pointed out the indiscriminate destruction of mangroves in the area and questioned the genuineness of the environmental clearance process as the Adanis had been carrying out construction activities for the project for the past six months without environmental clearance.

In spite of these objections, the project was given environmental clearance by the MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) in January 2009. In response, the fisherfolk launched an agitation under the banner of Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (MASS) demanding that the state Government take measures to ensure that the livelihood of fisherfolk is protected.

The fisherfolk also approached the National Environment Appellate Authority in February 2009 in Manjalia Ahmad Ishak & Ors vs. Union of India & Ors where a prominent legal firm ELDF (Enviro Legal Defence Firm) represented the Fisherfolk and highlighted the issues.

In its judgment dated July 22, 2009, the NEAA has directed the Gujarat Government to ensure that any proposed activities of the Adanis' Water Front Development Project do not hinder safe access of fishermen to the sea through the traditional access including their use of bandars(Fishing Settlements). This is a significant order in view of the fact that the Mundra Port and SEZ Ltd., in its affidavit, claimed that there are no transient settlements or bandars in the project area. However, the NEAA refused to stay the ongoing constructions as sought by the petitioners on behalf of the fishing community. The petitioners had also raised the issue of violations by the Mundra Port and SEZ in the form of mangrove destruction, blocking of creeks and the start of construction prior to receipt of requisite permissions. In this regard, the NEAA has not given any ruling but has stated that the petitioners are at liberty to approach the concerned statutory authorities in this regard.

This Order comes as a huge relief to atleast thousand fisherfolk families and it is perhaps for the first time that the NEAA has passed such strict binding orders in its history of twelve years since it was created in 1997.
Sign a petition to save Mundra Coast and stop displacement of Mundra Fisherfolk