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Vasai-Virar Sub-Region

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Meeting of the Vasai Virar Arakhada Kruti Samiti (Action Commitee for Planning in Vasai-Virar), June 2004

In the metropolitan peripheries, development often is synonymous with marginalisation of local communities. Existing policies and plans proposed by state agencies have resulted in severe expropriation of the community-based and natural resources in the Vasai Virar Sub-Region (VVSR), and this project intends to empower these local communities by providing them with bargaining tools for community-led development. This project focusses on areas where acute conflicts have arisen due to developmental pressures, and where resident communities are facing severe marginalisation. It aims towards envisioning short-term (one to three years) and long-term development strategies (five to ten years) in the Vasai Virar Sub-Region. The project methodology includes the formulation of a Local Development Committee (LDC) comprising of various community stakeholders, and institutional and financial mechanisms towards the implementation of the strategy plans Presently, three areas have been identified for community planning interventions:

Vasai Fishing Village (Sector VIII)

Fishing communities have been amongst the earliest settlers in the VVSR. Fishing activities in recent times have been severely affected due to the callous dumping of industrial effluents and urban waste in the creeks and the sea resulting in the loss of ground for fishing. Due to the natural growth of the population these villages have become over populated and face acute infrastructural shortage. Land reclamation in Mumbai, over a long period of time, has resulted into the tidal waves eating up the western coast. Broadly speaking, while deep-sea fishing is a territory controlled by large organizations having sophisticated capacities, fishing activities by indigenous fishermen having weak organizational capacities have been at the mercy of the pressures of urbanisation and threats from the natural environment. In spite of the fishing villages in the VVSR exemplifying all these problems, there is no mention of the fishing villages in the Draft Development Plan for the VVSR (2001–2021). The aim of this project is to initiate a pilot project through the case of Vasai Fishing Village, towards envisioning and strategising local community development.

Kaman Village in the Green Zone (Sector X)

The context for this project is the displacement of cattle sheds from Mumbai and their relocation in the VVSR. The agricultural village of Kaman forms one of the areas where reservations of land use have been made for the relocation of cattle sheds. The disposal of waste from the cattle sheds has affected the land and underground water sources in the region around the Cattle Shed Zone rendering a loss of jobs and livelihood to the farmers and the adivasi (tribal) labour. In the absence of any other form of economic activity, the reservation of land use for the Cattle Shed Zone looms as a severe economic threat for local communities. The process of gentrification, resulting out of the newer programme of the Cattle Sheds, has displaced the adivasi population from their lands and houses. This zone, in the regional context of VVSR, also presents numerous opportunities towards solving the water management and supply problems. In such a context the allocation of the Cattle Shed Zone as a land use is in question, and this project will take the case of Kaman Village for strategising local community development, becoming a bargaining medium for the agricultural and allied community.

Arnala Village in the Plantation Zone (Sector VII)

This project is set in the context of the recent shift of activities from agriculture towards recreation and spiritual tourism in the Plantation Zone, and the promotion of the tourism-based local economies in the Draft Development Plan for the VVSR (2001–2021). Arnala, which is amongst the most populous tourist sites in VVSR, has seen a tremendous growth of resorts and guest houses in the last decade due to the growth of the tourism. Questions have arisen regarding the sustainability of such activities with available water and energy resources and local infrastructure. The local economy, based primarly on agriculture and fishing, has been organised around resident farmers and fishermen, as well as seasonal migrant labour — the tourism economy, however, is based little local participation, and is oriented towards outside business and land interests. While the peri-urban areas have been conceptualised in the Draft Development Plan as tourism and recreation zones, this does not take into account local aspirations or realities. This project will involve the local community in strategising its future development, and suggest ways of strengthening existing local economies in the midst of predatory urbanisation.

 

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