Intro: Nergis Irani & DTEWA


Jan Slakov

Nergis Irani is a housewife and environmental activist in Dahanu (just over
100 km north of Bombay on the west coast of India). I am sure that, reading
the brochure from the Dahan Takula Environment Welfare Association (DTEWA)
below, many of you will find, as I did, that her experience has much in
common with your own experience.
- Jan
To: •••@••.••• (Jan Slakov)
Date:          Thu, 9 Jul 1998 17:02:17 

Dear Jan,

I have tried to be as brief as possible like you suggested but there 
is so much matter it has been quite difficult. After reading it 
you are free to edit and pass it on to the other RN members as we 
are constantly seeking support. 

Here is an electronic version of DTEWA's brochure.    

DTEWA--An Introduction 

Dahanu Taluka Environment Welfare Association (DTEWA) as its name 
suggests has been fighting the whole system to ensure the 
implementation of law - Its vital work however, is working 
towards protecting this eco- fragile region leading to the ehancment 
of sustainable development based on Dahanu's abundant natural 
resources.  Dahanu Road station is 120 kms north, on the west 
coast of Mumbai. 

A brief background:

Dahanu is a productive green oasis the only buffer zone left, 
between two heavily industrialised and polluted regions. DTEWA is 
battling the tremendous pressures from the government and the greedy 
corporate lobbies who are bent on destroying  Dahanu in the name of 
The region is blessed with a rich coastal area that sustains a 
large population  of fishermen, a forest cover that  
sustains the Warlis(an unassimilated tribal people indigenous to the 
region), orchards and farms that supply fruits, flowers and 
vegetables to the surrounding towns and cities as also agricultural 
holdings cultivated by the local peasants and tribals.
Dahanu Taluka, with 49% of its area under forest cover, its density 
of orchards, wetlands and mangroves, is considered the lungs 
of the polluted cities surrounding it.

Legal redressal, People's movements, Media campaigns, International 
pressure lobbies and a constant vigil on the machinations of the 
government in collusion with the industrial and builders lobbies are 
our main weapons in this battle.

The battle began when the proposal of setting up a thermal power plant 
in Dahanu was mooted in 1989. Nergis B. Irani, a housewife and an 
enlightened and progressive visionary, heard about the plans and 
realised that this would be just the beginning of the total 
annhiliation of Dahanu Taluka and its hapless populace especially the 
self-supporting fishermen and the indegenous people therein.   
An active social worker fighting for women's issues on a local 
level, she decided that if no deterrant action was taken the 
government would destroy Dahanu as it has many of India's 
sanctuaries and productive rural regions.  Kitayun Rustom, 
a former school teacher and another resident of Dahanu joined Nergis 
Irani in her battle and they set up DTEWA expressly to oppose the 
thermal power plant.

All their  concerted efforts opposing the siting of the illegal 
plant failed against the might of a corrupt government. They did 
however manage to force the government, to legally notifify the 
Dahanu Taluka as a protected area against any urbanization and further 
industrialisation; keeping in mind its eco- fragile status in terms 
of its natural wealth and also to protect the sustainable lifestyle 
of the  Warlis,(the tribals who constitute 67 percent of its 
population).  A Writ Petition filed in 1994 at the Suprreme Court of 
India, resulted in a 22 page Order ensuring NO CHANGE IN THE LAND USE 
PATTERN, no expansion of the power plant, protection of Dahanu as an 
ecologically fragile region this amongst many, many restrictions.

Since May 1997, DTEWA has been campaigning against P&O (Peninsular 
and Orient Co.)who propose to set up a $ 2.7 billion all weather, mega-
port, a 33 berth, monstrosity that will annihilate the fishing 
community, whilst the traffic, urbanization and the associated evils 
linked with the port will be of fatal consequence of the eco-
fragility of the region. What is even more dangerous is that this 
particular multi-national, is proposing to do all this in  clear 
violation of then Order passed by the Supreme Court of India 
protecting the region.

DTEWA is co-ordinating the people's movement against the proposed port
besides advising 'The Protection Authority' (set up by the Supreme 
Court through its Order) and other local groups opposed to the port on 
the legal angle. 

DTEWA's Internaional liasion officer, Shabnam Merchant is in charge 
of rallying support for the movement from Green pressure groups and 
other international ngo's. A media liasion officer takes care of the 
media campaigns while spreading awareness of the issue amongst 
students and other Indian ngo's. 

With the support of WWF-UK, DTEWA has commisioned complete bio-
diversity studies of the Dahanu region which when completed will be a 
permenant and complete record of the threatened eco-system, natural 
wealth and the flora and the fauna of the region. Yet another study 
commisioned by DTEWA is being conducted to look into the socio- 
economics and the self sustaining lifestyle of the people of the 
region viz. the proposed port.    

Even as the battle against the siting of the port in Dahanu is 
being fought, DTEWA is pressurising the Thermal power 
plant to switch from coal to the less polluting gas as per the 
ruling of the Supreme court. With "implementation of the law" and 
"Justice for the backward and fringe communities like the Warlis" as 
their basic tenet, DTEWA continues to keep a vigil to ensure that 
Dahanu remains the perfect prototype for all the rural areas in 
India - Green, pristine yet productive. 


Here is my response to your question -

> What are you learning from your work?

That I cannot give up this particular commitment if I have to live 
with myself, even after well over 13 years.  I have had to 
sacrifice a great deal. I have endured threats to my life and 
confiscation of my farm and those of my children, all illegally (I 
have obtained a Stay order in the Bombay High Court).  I have staked 
all I have, my MIND, my WEALTH and my very SELF. Our movement has 
become a people's movement and I am ready now to get out and do what 
I love doing best i.e. being a homemaker, a mother and a grandmother.

-   That our government (this is my experience) is corrupt, at every 
level and this includes all, the Legislature, the Executive and the 
-   The people operate out of fear and do NOTHING as then they cannot 
get any work done - the one who fights pay heavily through his work.
EVeryone wants 'to LOOK good', instead of 'BEING good'.  
-   That NO officer or politician working with integrity can carry 
on long and is transferred immediately if he fails to toe the crooked 
-   That even a small place like Dahanu is completely controlled from 
the top at the State level through its Municipal Council and one of 
its Party members in Dahanu. All the illegal work is cleared through 
the 'so called GUARDIAN Minister'of the District.  The ruling party 
does what the moneybags want and everyone is raping and pillaging 
-   That the PEOPLE are responsible for this state of affairs and 
must take responsibility instead of blaming the Government.  If there 
are no 'givers' there can be no 'takers' and the givers are more to 
blame, if any blame is to be handed out. This may as well be true of 
all the nations.
 -   That if the people do not start NOW India will be totally 
destroyed and its citizens beggared for ever.
-   That our only true wealth is in our 'natural resources'and the 
future of India, her prosperity and regeneration lies in her rich bio-
diversity for the world to use.
-   That women can do wonders and it is time they fully participated 
in the process of governance - and a minimal government is what is 
now needed, we can all do without leeches and blood letting. 

Nergis Irani,
Convenor - INTACH (Indian National Trust Architectural and Cultural 
Heritage) Chapter Dahanu.
Secretary - DTEWA (Dahanu Taluka Environment Welfare Association) 

Vaki, Ambatpada, 
Dahanu Road, Thane District, 
Maharashtra, India -401603

Tel- 91-2528-22688
Email - •••@••.•••