Koliwadas and Gaothans
Mumbai being a coastal city has been a point of attraction for the kolis (native fisherfolk). Koliwadas are these quant settlements, housing a community of originally fisherfolks. Who’s lives and livelihood revolve around the sea. They lead a simple life, involved mostly in fishing and the health of the ocean. The kolis also have a rich heritage and culture, deeply ingrained in Mumbai’s history.
Traditionally, the koli men go fishing and the women remain equally occupied by selling the fish, managing the family’s finances as well as running the house. The fisherfolk are intricately tied with nature. Koliwadas have been able to live harmoniously to the waves of the sea in past, however the kolis have been faced with a wide array of disadvantages through the years.
Ranging from congested living spaces to poor sanitation, drainage, and water facilities. Presently they have no foreseeable developmental plans to lean on either. The fisherfolk require land for drying fish, boat mooring, net weaving generally to carry out their fishing activities. Snatching away their land would mean snatching away their livelihood and identity.
Stripped of their land rights, they would be under constant threat of eviction and demolition. The heart of this city's heritage is under threat of being buried under the name of slums.
The fisherfolk face tremendous pressure staying in competition against large-scale commercial enterprises. Further face hindrances in several aspects of their livelihood. The koli women too bear complex problems working long hours in their inhospitable fish markets. Their daily earnings come at the cost of their health and well-being.
The encroachment also violates Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules that are in place to protect the coastline and its inhabitants, the marine ecosystem and native fishers. Violating CRZ leads to serious consequences of environmental degradation and disruption of coastal ecosystems. Along with global warming and extreme climatic events, the wrath of which would immediately affect the coastal residents, due to their geographical disposition. In 2018, the floods in Kerela caused tremendous distress, a situation curbed by the local fishers of different states, who were able to rescue 70% of the people. Kerela floods were an important case highlighting the fisherfolk and their rapport with nature.
UCM is working to advocate the rights of Koliwadas. By enabling the empowerment of the native kolis, through documentation in form of interviews voicing their concerns.
Voices of the Community
UCM conducted interviews of the residents of koliwadas.
With an aim to glean and understand, articulate their concerns and facilitate a platform to discuss their various concerns.
In 1991, the Coastline Regulation Zone notification expressed a dire concern to maintain and conserve the coastal region and its environmental resources as well as its inhabitants. The importance has since diminished through the decades, as there has been an alarming reduction in demarcation for the koliwadas.
In 2018, the Fisheries Department, Revenue Department alongside the kolis worked out a joint demarcation. Following which, the Development Plan released in 2022 showed a drastic reduction in allotted area for the koliwadas. At this rate, Mumbai’s earliest inhabitants will ostensibly have wiped out of the plan altogether.
Constant threat of eviction
No land for drying fish, park boats
Labelled as slum
No space for development
2018 Joint Demarcation
2018 Joint Demarcation
2018 Joint Demarcation
Over the years the coast has borne the burden of urbanization through various and constant developmental projects. Making environmental health weaker and weaker.
Sustaining the coastal health is crucial in order to protect the city from the wrath of extreme climatic events. Koliwadas being the closest to the sea are the ones most affected. Vast and diverse marine ecosystems also reside here, who are faced with the same threat. Dwindling marine populations and loss of biodiversity has become a matter of grave concern.
The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules are formulated to ensure the further damage does not lead to the destruction of our coastline. CRZ stated a clear distance of 500m should be maintained. Which has since been reduced to 50m. The livelihood and housing of native fisherfolk is an important aspect of CRZ for their protection. The encroachment blatantly violates the CRZ rules. Land grabs lead to severe environmental consequences. The native fishers are known to protect and worship the sea. Their lives and livelihood are deeply intertwined with nature, their fishing periods depend on the phases of the moon, they do not fish during fish breeding periods.
In order to protect the city’s coastline, safeguarding the koliwadas settlement and land becomes extremely imperative.
At present the koliwadas accommodate crowded and messy settlements. With lanes not wide enough for emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire brigades to reach their houses. A concern highlighted by the fact that most koliwadas do not have nearby accessible healthcare facilities. Neither do they have educational institutes.
Improper drainage systems and bare minimal installation of water facility and electricity, form the base to holding together Mumbai’s earliest settlements. A dire need arises to strategize and formulate appropriate guidelines in order to unfold a sustainable development through Development Control and Promotion Regulations (DCPRs) in the koliwadas.
The exclusion from the DP has severe consequences on their livelihood, the spaces they require to carry out fishing and related activities would not be available to them. The kolis have been facing a drastic hit on their income since online fishing grabbed a substantial portion of their customers. Alongside polluted waters resulting in reduced catch size. High transport cost to sell fish which is pocketed out of their marginal profits. Additionally unsuitable market spaces decrease their hours of productivity.
The women of the koli community who sell fish are subjected to harsh conditions. For the long hours they spend in the market trying to earn their daily income, they have no toilet facilities, no water supply. For which reason the women prefer to not drink water, to avoid walking a 20 minute route to the nearest toilet, leaving their fish unguarded. Making kidney related ailments and possible urinary tract infections much more prevalent amongst them.
Most markets do not allocate a proper sitting space either. The women spend all day in this dingy and clustered market setting with no scope of improvement.