Dharavi Bet Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, GORAI – MUMBAI
Dharavi Bet is an island surrounded by the Arabian Sea and creeks of Mumbai and Thane. The region is rich in natural resources and local culture. The area has a dense population of about 1,25,000 people, primarily Christians, Koli, Aagri, Kunbi, Bhandari and Adivasis. More than 60% of the population of the coastal area earns their livelihood through fishing. Other villagers are engaged in farming, salt making and small scale businesses. Rich mangrove forests contribute to bio-diversity in the region. More than half of the land is irrigated by a well system and grows vegetables and fruits throughout the year.
The coastal regulation zone has recently been threatened because developers are seeking to acquire the entire coast of the region, including approximately 2 km of the deep sea, for the Pan India Paryatan Limited (ESSEL) SEZ. According to government documents, the approved-in-principle ESSEL SEZ seeks to acquire 2500 acres of land. However, local activist Peter Gudino claims that the SEZ is actually planning to acquire about 5743 hectares of land for the SEZ.
Ten villages in the region are actively opposing the SEZ. Villagers from Manori, Gorai, Uttan, Pali, Chowk, Gongri, Tarodi, Rai, Morva and Murdhe formed the Dharavi Bet Bachao Sangharsh Samiti to protest land acquisition, displacement, and loss of livelihood stemming from the project. Many fisherman lack skills other than fishing and fear they will not find alternate sources of livelihood if they lose their jobs. One woman shared: “we will die here only, we will not go any where. [Past] generations have protected the land for us [and] now it’s our duty to protect [this land for the] next generations.”
Citizens of the ten villages of Dharavi Bet mobilized more than 25,000 people at Azad Maidan Mumbai to demand an end to the ESSEL SEZ. In the last two years, local citizens have passed resolutions against land acquisition for SEZs and have organized to fight against development projects. As a result of these actions, the government has recently decided to end the process of land acquisition. However, the government has decreased the acquisition of land area from 5743 to 110 hectares only, but still people are demanding the scraping of the SEZ in Gorai.