Making Mumbai Resilient- Action agenda for Versova Koliwada, Mumbai

Making Mumbai Resilient- Action agenda for Versova Koliwada, Mumbai.

Authors: Jai and Ketaki Bhadgaonkar, Urbanists, Bombay61 Studio

Climate change has serious impacts on the cities and specifically on the indigenous coastal communities around the world. As of today, Mumbai’s coastline is dotted by 38 such fishermen settlements (Koliwada) that date back to 400 years of evolution. Versova Koliwada is one of the most thriving fishing villages in the city of Mumbai. However, climate change, developmental pressures, ecological deterioration and changing aspirations have led to uncertainties in fishing as a livelihood. In recent years, most of the Kolis have had to sell their boats due to the economic losses.

The project initiated by Bombay 61creates an opportunity to establish close interactions with the community, to understand their concerns and initiate trans-disciplinary dialogue to co-produce transformative actions that envision sustainable development. By recognizing the skills and knowledge of the Koli community, the Bombay 61 team foresees an opportunity to collectively bring a change for improving local conditions.

Due to the nature of the water currents, the solid waste eventually settles on the sandy beaches of Koliwada. During monsoons, mountainous heaps of plastic debris accumulates on the coast. The consequences of this extreme pollution have brought about an increase in fish mortality, which negatively impacts the livelihood of the local fishermen. These actions affect the local economy, allied skilled occupations and fuels ecological concerns.

The proposed intervention encompasses a number of critical questions and tackles two major issues: integration and sustainable development. The intervention intends to blur the existing social boundary between the Kolis and the city dwellers, and effectuate integration across various levels: social, economic, spatial and political. This proposal wishes to address the issue of an ‘uncertain future’ of these communities by building resilience and exploring different methods that can sustain their existence and propel it forward in an exemplary environment-friendly manner.

The idea is to facilitate new activities and services based on the principle of micro-intervention. One of the major pollutants responsible for the coastal and mangrove degradation is plastic debris. The first step of the initiative designates focal points for waste collection and segregation. The intention is to use the skills of the net weavers to make filter screens, suspended 2 meters deep in the creek and anchored along the edge, imitating a water filter system. This ensures uninterrupted movement of fish while creating an efficient method for waste collection. The plastic debris collected from a comprehensive waste sorting would be recycled and repurposed. This would increase the fish population, help the fishermen in increasing their catch and strengthen socio- cultural and economic sustenance.

The larger aim of the project is to restore the ecology of the creek and empower the community by strengthening their economy with the help of the newly established recycling industry and the fisheries. This expansion would extend Koliwada’s economic reach to the city, establishing a socio-economic interaction between the two.

The proposal is envisioned to scale up and scale out across the various Koli communities of Mumbai. The interventions in the project use technology as a means to empower local business and strengthen ties both within and outside the Koli community. Finally, the project hopes to address the issues of marginality by facilitating interaction between the Kolis and the rest of the city.

The Bombay 61 team is currently involved in close interactions with the community to realize the project through community participation. The main goal of the proposal is to incrementally develop the existing ancillary industries, stimulate employment, encourage the germination of more small-scale industries and restore the ecology to achieve sustenance by building resilience.


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