Manisha Goswami, 32, is a young mother with a 12-year old daughter and a six-year old son. She is always bursting with energy, which extends not just to rearing her children but to the causes she feels most strongly about – the environment. As you will see, she needs her energy and dogged perseverance, because this is a story of inertia, buck-passing and one of the world’s most complex bureaucracies.
Manisha lives in Vapi, a city in the Valsad region of western Gujarat. Vapi holds the dubious distinction of being one of the largest industrial areas in Asia and has been designated as perhaps the most polluted place on the planet. The city is dominated by hundreds of small-scale chemical plants. The extreme levels of pollution have not just rendered its groundwater and rivers totally unfit for drinking, but have also destroyed the livelihoods of people who once depended on the health of local ecosystems.
The Kolak River, which flows through Vapi, is a victim of continual discharges of untreated effluent from the chemical plants. These have made the Kolak incapable of supporting any life. Manisha has a background in environmental activism and has worked with displaced fishing communities to try to force local government to ensure that the chemical industries abide by the rules over discharging waste into the rivers.
In early 2014, Manisha joined Namati’s Environment Justice Program and was trained as a community paralegal. A community paralegal, or grassroots advocate, lives in the community they serve. They combine their knowledge of the law, a range of skills such as mediation and community organizing, and their intimate understanding of the local context to help resolve justice problems and empower their clients and communities. Namati is a global NGO dedicated to building a global movement of grassroots legal advocates who work with communities to advance justice.
Manisha has been making rounds between the regional office of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and the chief officer in Valsad’s local government, known in India as the District Collector. Intermittently, she makes phone calls to the officers of the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority in Ahmadabad. She has been doing all this in order to bring to life a body called the Valsad District Level Coastal Committee (DLCC).
A DLCC is an institution created, on paper at least, by changes made to the rules governing India’s Coastal Regulation Zone in 2011. The Coastal Regulation Zone, known universally as the ‘CRZ’, covers India’s entire coastline and supposedly regulates industrial development to protect the coastal environment. The 2011 CRZ amendment asks state governments to constitute district level coastal committees to assist it in the enforcement and monitoring of the coast.
Despite some limitations, a DLCC provides an opportunity for traditional coastal communities, including fishermen, to participate in regulating coastal development – the rules state that a DLCC should have at least three representatives from the traditional coastal communities.
Such involvement has the potential to allow other communities in Gujarat avoid the sad fate of the former fishing folk on the Kolak River. Vapi was once home to fishing communities, who were ignored when small-scale industries were allowed to set up in the town. Almost 500 chemical plants concentrated in an area of 21 square kilometers spew their discharge into the sea and rivers and have left no space for traditional occupations. The wipeout of fisherfolk from Vapi highlights the need for traditional communities’ involvement in planning and development of the coastal areas, for which the DLCCs offer a chance.
The Government of Gujarat passed an order establishing these DLCCs in October 2013. However, neither the CRZ rules, nor the order issued by the Gujarat Government clearly stated who at the district level would constitute the committees. In the absence of any clarity on the matter, almost none of the districts in the state had started forming DLCCs by May 2014. Realizing this, in May 2014, Gujarta’s Coastal Zone Management Authority wrote to the State’s District Collectors instructing them to set up DLCCs.
The Government of Gujarat ruled that a District Collector is the chairman of the DLCC, so Manisha, in May 2014, filed an Right to Information (RTI) application with her local collector’s office enquiring about the current status of DLCC constitution. She followed it up with a letter on behalf of the fishing communities, requesting that the DLCC be constituted as mandated, and making clear that it should have members from traditional industries.
A copy of the letter was sent to the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority. After waiting for a month and a half, Manisha decided to visit the office of the District Collector where she was told that she should pursue the matter with the regional officer of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). The same rule that made District Officers the chairs of the DLCC, makes the regional officer of the GPCB, the member secretary of a DLCC.
The regional officer in Valsad of the GPCB maintained that until he got clear instructions from the District Collector he couldn’t constitute a DLCC. Essentially Manisha found that the first opportunity India’s traditional coastal communities have ever had for a say in their local environment was being held up by the kind of bureaucratic buck-passing that makes a sane person tear at their hair. It is a classic example of how tasks assigned in addition to the main responsibility of an over-burdened civil servant end up never being given enough attention.
Amongst all this, Manisha has been trying to wade her way through Government orders, bewildering acronyms and obscure internal hierarchies. She has been learning through trial and error. This learning, and hopefully her eventual success at nurturing these important committees into life, will ease the way for other NGOs and communities, who are engaged in activating DLCCs all around the country.
At the outset of her campaign, the government officers she met just assumed she wanted a place on the committee for herself. Steadily, with perseverance, she keeps making her case and continues going from one office to the other, writing and making phone calls to officials, in the hope that this crucial role for traditional communities will soon come into being. And all the while, the communication between the two government bodies – that should of course be happening of its own accord – continues to take place via a Namati paralegal.
Meenakshi Kapoor is Program Manager at Namati’s office in Delhi.
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Last updated January 30, 2013.
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Last updated: February 2, 2023
Welcome to the namati.org website (the “Site”) and the Legal Empowerment Network Forum (the “Forum”) operated by Namati, Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Namati”, “we”, “us” or “our”). We share your concern about the protection of your personal information online.
This Policy describes our privacy practices and sets out your obligations and ours with respect to your use of the Site and the Forum. This Policy applies only to the Site and the Forum and does not necessarily apply to our offline collection of information.
Namati may collect and retain two types of information about Site and Forum visitors: (i) personal information that individual visitors voluntarily provide when interacting on the Site or Forum or on certain other occasions (such as via forms or in emails); and (ii) tracking data, which is data that is automatically collected from every Site and Forum visitor as they use and browse the site.
We may, from time to time, store and archive the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum. The information that we gather may include your name, title, and address, telephone number, email address, credit card number or other elements of personal information. In addition, if you contact us, we may keep a record of your correspondence, including any information contained therein.
You may decline to provide any personal information, but please realize that you thereby may be unable to register or to participate in activities or services offered on the Site and/or Forum.
In addition to the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum, we also may collect and store data from and about you gathered in the course of your use of the Site and Forum. We call this “tracking data.”
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Personal information you submit via your member account, other than information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site as described below, is deleted from Namati’s records following the deletion of your account. However, such information may continue to be retained by third-party service providers to which it has been disclosed for one of the reasons listed above. Any financial records will be kept in accordance with Namati’s data retention policy.
Your Information is stored on Digital Ocean servers in New York, USA, and WPengine servers located in Texas, USA. When you provide personal information to us, we request your consent to transfer that personal information to the USA. The USA does not have an adequacy decision from the European Commission, which means that the Commission has not determined that the laws of the USA provide adequate protection for personal information. Although the laws of the USA do not provide legal protection that is equivalent to the EU GDPR, we safeguard your personal information by treating it in accordance with this Policy. We take appropriate steps to protect your privacy and implement reasonable security measures to protect your personal information in storage. We use secure transmission methods to collect personal data through our website. We also enter into contracts with our data processors that require them to treat personal information in a manner that is consistent with this Policy.
We have put in place appropriate security measures to prevent your personal data from being accidentally lost, used or accessed in an unauthorized way, altered or disclosed. In addition, we limit access to your personal data to those employees, agents, contractors and other third parties who have a business need to know. They will only process your personal data on our instructions and they are subject to a duty of confidentiality.
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Namati is concerned about the privacy protection of children who access the Internet and this website is not intended for children and we do not knowingly collect data relating to children. Accordingly, the Site and Forum are not intended for use by anyone under the age of 16, and we do not knowingly collect information from anyone under 16 years of age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
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Washington, DC 20036, USA
It is important that the personal data we hold about you is accurate and current. Please keep us informed if your personal data changes during your relationship with us.
You have the right to:
Request access to your personal data (commonly known as a “data subject access request”). This enables you to receive a copy of the personal data we hold about you and to check that we are lawfully processing it.
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Object to processing of your personal data where we are relying on a legitimate interest (or those of a third party) and there is something about your particular situation which makes you want to object to processing on this ground as you feel it has an impact on your fundamental rights and freedoms. You also have the right to object where we are processing your personal data for direct marketing purposes. In some cases, we may demonstrate that we have compelling legitimate grounds to process your information which override your rights and freedoms.
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Withdraw consent at any time where we are relying on consent to process your personal data. However, this will not affect the lawfulness of any processing carried out before you withdraw your consent. If you withdraw your consent, we may not be able to provide certain products or services to you. We will advise you if this is the case at the time you withdraw your consent.
You will not have to pay a fee to access your personal data (or to exercise any of the other rights). However, we may charge a reasonable fee if your request is clearly unfounded, repetitive or excessive. Alternatively, we could refuse to comply with your request in these circumstances.
We may need to request specific information from you to help us confirm your identity and ensure your right to access your personal data (or to exercise any of your other rights). This is a security measure to ensure that personal data is not disclosed to any person who has no right to receive it. We may also contact you to ask you for further information in relation to your request to speed up our response.
We try to respond to all legitimate requests within one month. Occasionally it could take us longer than a month if your request is particularly complex or you have made a number of requests. In this case, we will notify you and keep you updated.
If you live in an EEA Member State, all of which have adopted the EU GDPR and national , you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority about this policy and its application. The European Commission has a list of EU national data protection authorities here:
If you live in the United Kingdom, you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority, the ICO, about this policy and its application:
The Policy was updated in July 2022 to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations.