New Delhi: The Gujarat government can go ahead with several waterfront development projects, including ports, but will have to secure the livelihoods of fisherfolk and ensure their access to the sea, according to an order passed by the environmental appellate authority recently.
The National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) passed an order on 20 July on an appeal filed by the fishermen of Mundra in Gujarat, directing the state government “to ensure that any proposed activities of WFDP (Waterfront Development Project) do not hinder safe access of fishermen to the sea through traditional access, including their use of bandars”.
Bandars are temporary harbours in which fisherfolk live for eight-nine months of the year and use as a base.
Traditional rights: An appellate body refused to scrap the environmental clearance given to Mundra Port. Ashesh Shah / Mint
“These bandars are threatened because of the waterfront development and construction of four ports in the area,” said Manshi Asher, independent researcher on social and environmental issues.
However, NEAA dismissed the appeal that asked for scrapping the environmental clearance given to the Adani Group’s Mundra Port and SEZ Ltd.
The appeal said the WFDP would adversely affect around 1,000 families of fishermen. The Adani Group told the court that it would not block the creeks while working on the project and that access to the sea would be available for fishermen.
“What is significant is that they have tried to ensure that livelihoods have been secured...including (the issue of) specific directions to the state government,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, counsel for the petitioner.
A similar issue was also recently raised by an expert committee on coastal management zones. The committee recommended that there be no restriction in fishing and fisheries-related activities of local communities living in the area and that activities related to the “profession of traditional fisherfolk” be explicitly mentioned.
The government is also considering a separate legislation, along the lines of the Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006, for securing the rights of fishermen.