Koli community’s solution to clean up Mumbai’s creeks

An innovative fishing nets installation collected around 500 kg of waste in 3 days from a single outlet in Malad creek.

From Rivers to Sewers

The indigenous coastal communities have been the caretakers of Mumbai’s rich biodiversity and coastline for centuries. Yet, their voices are sidelined when it comes to the city’s livability concerns.

The city’s rivers and creeks, which are critical sources of subsistence and livelihood for these communities and critical to the marine ecology of coastal Mumbai, are being deteriorated to the point of no return.

80,000 - 1,00,000 kg of plastic waste is dumped into Mumbai’s water channels every day

Virtually no marine life is left in Mumbai’s rivers and creeks

The city’s essential rivers and creeks are referred to as “Nallahs”

Rapidly depleting the protective cover of mangroves in the creeks - which are important for Flood Protection.

The Mumbai Climate Action Plan

The Mumbai Climate Action Plan, announced on the 13th March 2022, recognizes the disproportionate impact of climate change-induced hazards on vulnerable communities like the Kolis and talks about increasing the resilience of these communities.

This action plan needs to be made more inclusive by acknowledging the direct impact on the sustenance and the livelihood of the Koli community and other creek-dependent communities due to polluting creeks and the solution they have to offer to address the city’s livability concerns.

The Kolis now catch more plastic in the nets than fish!

The Koli fishermen used this as inspiration and leveraged their traditional fishing craft and techniques to ideate and pilot test an innovative installation to trap the solid waste in Versova creek - ensuring the uninterrupted movement of artisanal fisher boats while creating an efficient method for waste collection.

A co-created solution for a growing problem

Watch how the net filters installation by the Koli Fishermen extracted 500 kg of waste in 3 days!

Process and Implementation

A detailed report by Bombay61 Studio, Tapestry Project and Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic elaborates on the participatory process through which this community-led and innovative solution evolved. It also shares recommendations focusing on introducing the goal of a clean and healthy creek as an agenda for the civic authorities, recognition of the role of the indigenous community and re-classification of nallahs as creeks, scaling up and proper implementation of the Net Filters Installation through multi-stakeholder collaboration, and stringent laws for sewage disposal.

Samvad Khadicha - Conversations of the Creek

To keep the momentum going and continue to the conversations Mumbaikars are having about Mumbai’s indigenious and the creek eco-system. The Ministry along with Bombay61 bought Mumbai’s youth together to celebrate and learn the unique relationship between the Koli and Warli communities and the coastal ecosystems of Mumbai through cultural immersion and art at संवाद खाडीचा or Conversations of the Creek.

This four day exhibition and festival celebrated the rich cultural history, creek ecosystem and its unique relationship with the indigenous communities. The intention of this festival was to start conservation conversation with the urban youth so that they become champions for the Kolis and Warlis and amplify the significance of traditional knowledge in sustainable solutions for the city. Through a mix of archival photographs, graphics, maps, artwork, and photo narratives by the Koli and Warli community people the exhibition took people through different themes: the community and their livelihoods, the coastal ecosystems, community interdependencies, creek degradation, and potential solutions.

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Day 01

Depicting visual narratives of the Koli and Warli communities in the form of photovoice, traditional Warli artwork, maps, and urban design model of #NewCatchInTown, along with signing postcards to BMC demanding that creeks be restored to their original glory and not be classified as nallahs.

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Day 02

Learning the Warli art, its association with community, the patterns and motifs depicting the close relationship between nature and humanity, with artist Dinesh Barap

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Day 03

Learning about the food items and practices that differentiate Koli seafood preparation from others through a Koli cuisine lunch hosted by Mr. Rajhans and Mrs. Harsha Tapke from Versova Koliwada at their home.

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Day 04

A cycling tour of the Madh Koliwada to understand sustainable fishing practices of the communities

We are thrilled to see the responses we received from these artists and their communities! Yes! We got a good response, but it does not stop here. Support this community-led solution that has the potential to clear the creeks of more than 5000 kg of waste to restore ecological balance to Mumbai’s creeks and support the livelihood of Kolis.

To restore ecological balance to Mumbai’s creeks and support the livelihood of Kolis, tweet to BMC using #NewCatchInTown

Click Tweet to easily share any of the pre-written tweets below and show your support

An ingenious solution for reviving Mumbai's rivers and creeks. The Koli Community truly are the original caretakers of our city! #NewCatchInTown @mybmc

There are significant lessons to be drawn from the traditional knowledge of Mumbai's original inhabitants on creek conservation and removing waste from Mumbai’s natural water systems! @mybmc #NewCatchInTown

More than 80,000kgs of plastic waste is dumped into Mumbai’s water channels every day! Our rivers and creeks need saving @mybmc and we have an implementable solution to start cleaning them up! #NewCatchInTown

#NewCatchinTown is an innovative, indigenous community-led solution to salvage creeks from the issue of urban waste and help @mybmc meet its waste management goals. Requesting @mybmc to adopt this model across Mumbai’s creeks and restore them back to their original glory!

The Koli Community has come up with a scalable, adaptable model to restore Mumbai’s creeks and rivers to their glorious past. All we need is for you @mybmc to adopt this model across Mumbai’s creeks #NewCatchinTown

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