Benita Chacko, The Indian Express

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Around 2000 residents of Vasai went on a day-long hunger strike on Monday in protest against the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (MMRDA) proposed draft regional plan 2016-36. In a protest joined by men, women and children, the residents collected objections against the plan to be filed before the MMRDA.

Published in September, the draft plan proposes to convert no-development zones into various industrial, residential and mining areas. Among other things, it proposes to allot green zone land for hazardous industries and mining activities. The plan also allows for high-rise buildings in the congested gaothan areas. Mostly inhabited by fishermen and farmers, Vasai fears that this development will take away livelihood.

“We want inclusive development here that considers everything from the wetlands, the ecosystem, the reserved forests and even us—the fishermen and farmers. Instead, MMRDA is only thinking of the welfare of capital investors and real estate developers. We are not against development, but this plan will only cause us harm. If they are to implement these plans, all the natives of this area will lose their livelihood,” says Mecanzy Dabre, a protester from Vasai.

The last date to file objections against the plan is February 19 and Vasai residents have already collected over 25000 objections. Earlier, the deadline was January 15 but the residents sought an extension as the plan was published only.

“The development body’s designs for these fishing villages will only damage this area’s ecology. First time in the history of urban development, green zones will be used for extremely polluting industries. As if that was not enough, they published the plan only in English. Generally citizens get four months to submit their objections, here they received practically only a month. They should get three more months for filing their objections. The residents are not protesting for themselves, they are striving to save an ecologically sensitive area,” says activist and town planner, Chandrashekar Prabhu.

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