Mormugao Port Trust, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Shipping, has proposed to build new berths and jetties in Vasco Bay, a water body in the town of Vasco da Gama, Goa. The project entails building concrete structures covering half the bay and roads and pipelines partly covering the southern end of the bay. The project has been opposed by the residents of Vasco, including traditional fishermen who operate out of the bay. According to the fishermen, who use small motorised canoes, the structures will block their access to the sea, while the proposed deepening of the bay, to accommodate cargo vessels, will raise the risk of erosion of the land surrounding the bay. This includes the Kharewado beach, which anchors the canoes and is used by fishermen to store fishing material.
The fishermen, along with the residents of Vasco, have said that the port authorities do not have control over the land as the beach and the bay are common properties and are under the jurisdiction of the state government. The port disagrees, saying that the area falls within its administrative limits duly notified under the Indian Ports Act, 1908.
The ports development also poses a threat to nearly 350 homes of fishermen and workers. According to the port authorities, these are illegal encroachments and, therefore, there is no proposal for land acquisition or rehabilitation. Moreover, the port recognises only 200 homes that existed when a survey was conducted in 1998, but the number of houses has increased over the years. Most of the homes are shanties made of metal sheets and belong to workers from neighbouring Karnataka, who work as helpers on mechanised fishing trawlers or on the traditional boats.
The port authorities estimate that 26 homes will be demolished to make way for the new infrastructure. The port has promised to hand over 50 sq.m. of land in a nearby locality as compensation, but the people will have to bear the expenses of dismantling and reconstructing their homes.
The port has applied for environmental clearance for the project. Demolition and construction will commence after the clearance is granted. People have been opposing the project since it was announced earlier in 2018. They expressed their disapproval at an environmental public hearing near Vasco on 5 October and have called for the project to be scrapped.
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