The Urban Design Research institute (UDRI) has been working with the indigenous communities, koliwadas, gaothans and adivasipadas, of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), to understand and assist in resolving several urban issues at the community-level. These settlements have not been demarcated by the civic administration since the 1960s, leading to complex issues of non-upgradation of settlement, threatened livelihoods and poor infrastructure. UDRI has been working with these communities since 2017 at various levels to achieve the following:

  1. Inclusion in the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP);
  2. Demarcation of extended koliwadas, gaothans and adivasipadas;
  3. Formulation of unique Development Control Regulations (DCRs) for the demarcated koliwadas, gaothans and adivasipadas;
  4. Empowering indigenous communities and primary livelihoods of the MMR;
  5. Infrastructure upgradation
    • Water
    • Sanitation
    • Solid waste management

The history of Mumbai is incomplete without its indigenous koli[1] community, one of the oldest communities of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), defined by their occupation of fishing, entirely dependent on the sea for its livelihood. These communities predominantly live in settlements dotting the coastline, popularly referred to as koliwadas. They present a unique facet to the city’s identity. But, over time, as the city has changed drastically, the koli community has struggled to find its rightful space in this rapidly changing landscape.

The kolis are beginning to lose their identity as their settlements encumbered by extremely congested living conditions and poor sanitation infrastructure are often incorrectly labelled as slum settlements. Their settlements have not been demarcated by the civic administration since the 1960s, challenging their presence in the city. Added to this apathy and being falsely labeled as slums, the potential real estate value of their lands puts them at a constant threat of eviction and demolition from vested interests, leading to more complex issues of poor or no sanitation infrastructure in these settlements, and unhygienic living conditions. These communities are at an impasse, where indigenous communities like the kolis, are faced with multiple vulnerabilities, over and above the natural disasters, such as establishing their identity, losing livelihoods, finding alternative solutions to housing upgradation and issues of poor sanitation infrastructure.

Inclusion of Koliwada in the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP);

UDRI has been guiding the Koliwada Gaothan Vistar Kruti Samiti and the gaothan community in their attempt to address the major issue of inclusion in the CZMP through pursuing these issues with the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and MoEF. The letters drafted by UDRI and sent by the community address the issues of the incomplete Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) of coastal districts in Maharashtra.

Demarcation of extended Koliwadas, Gaothans and Adivasipadas

UDRI has held several meetings with members of the the koli and gaothan communities to raise awareness about the importance of demarcation of their settlements which needs to be carried out by the Land Revenue department. Without the demarcation, these settlements cannot be represented in the DP and hence, their presence in the city will remain challenged. UDRI prepared several draft letters for the communities to file with the relevant authorities.

After the rigorous follow-up with governmental departments and revenue offices, demarcation has been initiated and completed in 21 koliwadas in Greater Mumbai.

Development Control Regulations (DCRs)

UDRI has prepared a set of draft DCRs which are being actively considered by the community for future adoption. The same have been forwarded by the communities to the Government of Maharashtra and MCGM.

Empowering indigenous communities and primary livelihoods of the MMR;

UDRI has been discussing various aspects of the community’s livelihood to ensure the inclusion of all ancillary activities within the CZMP, upgradation of infrastructure in their work places and conserve their livelihood. Amongst other issues, UDRI is advocating for better infrastructure and practice in the market areas to support and encourage more women to join the workforce.

Infrastructure upgradation

UDRI is looking at several aspects of the infrastructure provision in these indigenous settlements including water supply, sanitation, solid waste management and provision of social amenities. This is being carried out through extensive discussions with community representatives in seven case study areas.

Sanitation infrastructure project

UDRI has undertaken a comprehensive study to explore the social, technical and cultural concerns and challenges that surround the issue of community and public toilets in Greater Mumbai (Mumbai) and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

[1] The term koli is native to Maharashtra. Koliwada is a fishing village, housing the koli community or fisherfolk.