Sunday, August 13, 2017

Stealing the land in India

India's coastline is more than 7,500 km (4,660 miles) long, and about 3.5 million people make a living from fishing and related activities. There are more than 3,000 fishing villages along the coast, from remote rural hamlets to bustling urban settlements in cities such as Mumbai and Chennai. 
Changes to India's Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules this year have lifted the ban on land reclamation for commercial purposes. The federal government has earmarked more than 12 billion rupees ($188 million) for developing tourism at India's beaches.

Fishermen - known as kolis - say the changes will lead to environmental damage, displace coastal communities and hurt the livelihoods of millions who depend on the sea for their survival. The kolis are among the city's earliest inhabitants, with settlements dating back more than 400 years. Most kolis do not have titles to their homes or the land on which they spread their nets and dry their catch.
"The coastal lands are ours by tradition. The state plans to take them away with this law," said Rajhans Tapke, general secretary of the Koli Mahasangh association. "Our land will be lost, our access to the sea will be affected, our catch will be affected. How will we live?" said Tapke, who lives in Versova koliwada, or fishing village, home to his family for generations. "Mumbai began as a fishing village - this is its culture, its history, its tradition," said Tapke. "We protect the sea, the coast, the marine life; now our lives, our livelihoods are threatened because they want to give our land to movie stars and wealthy people who want sea views and beach sports."
"The CRZ was meant for our protection, but now they have diluted it so much we have lost all protection," said T. Peter, general secretary of the National Fisherworkers' Forum "They want to smash the fishing villages and build hotels and flats; where will we keep our boats and nets?"
City officials have long clashed with the kolis' right of use of coastal land. The kolis, whose song and dance are part of Mumbai tradition and who have featured in Bollywood movies, have lost swathes of land over the years to railway stations, schools and parks. They have resisted attempts by city officials to classify their settlements as slums, so they can be redeveloped with some land taken for commercial developments.
"Use of coastal land has always been tenuous, with the state pushing against people who have traditional land-use rights," said Manju Menon, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a think tank in Delhi. "In an urban area like Mumbai, with competing interests of the tourism and real estate industries, it is particularly contentious," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Fishermen are already battling industrial effluents and solid waste that drains into the sea, pollutes the mangroves and washes up on the beach.
 Fishermen have also long demanded that the koliwadas be mapped and given protection in the CRZ III category which will preserve the settlements while allowing for redevelopment. The kolis also want to be recognised as indigenous people, so their land and rights are better protected.
To make the land and all resources the common ownership of all people contact:To combat climate change, contact:
257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086
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