Green signal for Gorai SEZ

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Friday 31 October 2008

People of over 10 villages protest decision

THE Centre approved the Gorai Special Economic Zone (sez) on September 22 to come up in north Mumbai. People of over 10 villages, who have been protesting the sez for long, said they would not give up and "fight it till the end".

"Despite protests, the Board of Approval of sezs cleared 110 ha for Essel Infraprojects Ltd. We have filed a right to information application seeking details of the land because we don't know which parts it will cover. Farmers and fisherfolk have sent over 15,000 letters demanding scrapping of the Gorai sez," said Noel Kini, chairperson of the Gorai Macchimar Sahakari Samiti.

In the past three years, the Gorai sez project has changed several times. First, the company proposed an sez covering 5,740 ha in the 10 villages in north Mumbai. In 2006, the area was reduced to 1,000 ha and the board had approved it. Now it is 110 ha, which shows there is no clarity on the project, Kini said.

In February this year, thousands of villagers blocked the road and water supply to Essel World amusement park in Gorai to protest the proposed sez. Following this the Essel group had issued a statement saying it would drop the Gorai sez project. "Essel appeals to the community to shun the negative approach of activists and vested interests who are misguiding them and misrepresenting facts. Let there be a sincere and open dialogue... and if the community is still not convinced, Essel will be happy to withdraw from the project," the company had said.

Activists said a large part of the proposed area was under the coastal regulation zone, covered with mangroves. "This will affect both farmers and fisherfolk. The livelihood of over 15,000 people is at stake. Huge forests of mangroves have been destroyed to create Essel World and now this proposed sez will cause irreparable damage to the region," said N D Koli, general secretary of National Fishworkers' Forum, Mumbai.

The company claimed it was following the rule book. In 1999, the Maharashtra government had declared the region from Manori to Uttan, including Gorai in north Mumbai, a recreation and tourism development zone. People are unnecessarily raking up the issue nine years later, company officials said.

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