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Gorai is a village in Dharavi Bhet, the North-western part of the island of Salsette near Mumbai, India. Gorai is accessed more usually by a ferry crossing the Manori Creek or otherwise by the overland route through Bhayander. Gorai is bordered by the villages of Manori and Uttan, Pali, Chowk, Dongri, Tarodi, Rai, Morva and Murdhe. Until the 1980s, Gorai was known for its clean beaches and palm trees. However, with the increase in pollution around Mumbai, the Arabian Sea is unfit for swimming although Gorai is less polluted than the other beaches in Mumbai. Gorai still enjoys its calm, laid back charm quite in contrast to the fast-paced life of the city just on the other side of the creek. Bullock carts are still in use here and the area suffers from a water shortage but with real-estate developers steadily bulldozing their way into this prized suburban tract, the physical and cultural fabric of the villagers of Gorai is now quite endangered.
The Essel World amusement park has been set up in part of Gorai, by expropriating lands from the East Indians without a fair compensation and in the teeth of their protests. Essel World promised to build a school, dispensary and give jobs to the locals of Gorai. None of these have materialized. The Global Vipassana Pagoda, featuring the tallest pillar-less dome in the world, a place for meditation, is built on 13 acres of land near Gorai. It is similar in shape to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar.
The peninsula protruding off the north-west of Salsette island known as Dharavi Bhet once used to be an island called Dharavi, part of a group of Islands off the Salsette coast separated by the Manori Creek that connected to the Vasai Creek. Vesava, Marve and Rai Murdhe were the names of the other islands. These islands remained separate till as late as 1825 when Col. Jervis's map showed the west coast of Salsette broken into eight large and four small islands. In 1882, one could walk across the tidal inlets during low tides to reach these islands. The island of Dharavi, however, had to be reached by a boat. However, with the building of the railways over the Ghodbunder Creek, and with successive urbanization and reclamation of the tidal inlets, the Island is now effectively a peninsula attached to Salsette Island. North Dharavi Island which falls in the Thane district while the south is included in the Mumbai Suburban District.
The aesthetically appealing Dharavi Bhet is rich in resources and is a tourist attraction. The population of the 10 villages of Dharavi Bhet is approximately 1,50,000. 60% of these are fisherfolk who own approximately 4000 small and big fishing boats. Fish worth 25 crore rupees is exported annually. Moreover, there are 7 fishworker's government organisations that have worked for the progress and development of the community that is under threat of being displaced. About 25% of the people from the 10 villages are occupied in agriculture. Along with rice, the farmers grow a variety of crops including vegetables and pulses. The area is famed for its mango and coconut plantations. Vegetables and fruits are consumed by the neighbouring Mumbai city. The people of Rai, Morva and Murdha villages harvest salt from salt water pans. This salt pan industry is responsible for providing employment to thousands of workers.
Gorai has a large East Indian population. East Indians are Roman Catholics who were baptized by the Portuguese when they arrived here in the 16th century. Gorai has three churches. The oldest one, Reis Magos or the Three Magi, on the banks of the Vairalla Tank located on the north border of Gorai, was built by the Franciscan missionaries between 1595 & 1602. The newer parish church, also named after the Three Magi, was built in 1810, and is located about three-quarters of a mile to the south of the ruined, original parish church. The third is the Infant Jesus Chapel built near the ruins of the old church.
Major issues facing Gorai
As Mumbai expands frantically, rapid urbanisation and real estate development has started in the hinterland of Dharavi Bhet. Hectic construction has reduced open spaces, green cover and increase pollution, including untreated sewage, chemical effluents, and garbage. Mangroves have sometimes been destroyed deliberately for construction. Rainfall is now erratic and unpredictable, and more often, occurs in short and intense spells. Land temperatures are rising. Sea surface temperatures are also increasing because of which there are more stormy winds particularly in October and November. Coastal waters off Mumbai are rising at 0.3 degrees per decade. The sea level of the Mumbai coast is rising at an average of 1.2 mm a year. In Manori and Gorai together, the average annual fish catch dropped from 18,400 tonnes for the five-year period from 1994-95 to 98-99 to 13,354 tonnes for the period 2004-05 to 2008-09.
Toxic waste dumping
Villagers of Uttan, Palkhadi, Talavli, Anandnagar, Dongri, Tarodi, Pali, Chowk, and Morva are protesting the unbearable stench and havoc caused by the operators of the massive dumping grounds sitting atop the Dhavgi Hill right in the center of the nine villages. This dumping ground is set up on Collectors land that was transferred to the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation who in turn has leased it for a period of 30 years to a private garbage disposal company. Though the civic body claims to spray chemicals to keep away the stink, villagers say that the foul smell is getting unbearable and leading to health issues among the residents.
Special Economic Zone (SEZ)
An SEZ has been proposed by the Pan India Paryatan Ltd (Essel Group) that own and operate an amusement park near Gorai that would take over the land of Gorai village, and nearly the entire Dharavi Island. Of the total area being acquired for the SEZ, around 160.78 Ha land is village settlement area. With increase in population due to urbanisation, people settled on their farm lands and some fisherfolk moved into land owned by Port Trust. The earlier uneducated generations did not see the need to have the land ownership documents transferred onto their names. Hence many families do not have land and title documents to claim ownership of the land in which they have been living for generations together. Many villages also have resource rich hills. These hills have provided livelihood for a lot of the adivasi populations that live on them. All this will be acquired, rendering the adivasis homeless and destitute. About 95 Hectares of land around the Dharavi Bhet area is a bay and is the mainstay of the fisherfolk, agadi and the adivasi community. This falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone. About 2557 Hectares of the total land in the Dharavi Bhet is a heavy mangrove forest ecosystem that is important to sustain an environmental balance. Destroying mangrove land to create a cement and concrete jungle will harm the environment considerably.
New Gorai is a 25-minute travel by road from Borivali (West) and has become a major residential area because of its easy accessibility from the western suburb. There are many schools, colleges, hospitals, parks and gardens built here. There is a new fish market setup near the Gorai Creek. Half a century old Cross has been renovated.
Education in Gorai
- Swami Vivekanand International School (S.V.I.S)
- St. Rock's High School
- Dr. Pillai Global Academy
- Suvidya Prasarak Sangh's Suvidyalaya
- Pragati vidhyalaya
- Nalanda Academy
- Madhusudhan Global School
- Belvedere Spring School
- HVPS International School
- S K English School
- J J Academy
- Orchids International School
- Gokhale College
- Nalanda Academy
- Sailee College
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- [Hull, Vol. I, p. 10]
- "Major issues facing Dharavi Bhet" (PDF). Centre for Education and Documentation. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
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