Oh fish! Kolis slam shipping corridor, say will destroy livelihood
At a huge protest meet against project, Mumbai fishermen point out most of their catch is found in exact stretch corridor has been planned in
The Centre is keen on having a dedicated shipping corridor on the west coast of India, from Gujarat to Kanyakumari. The koli community, however, is dead against it; fishermen say if huge cargo ships and tourists ships go close to the coast, it will impact fishing negatively, costing lakhs of families their livelihood.
During a huge protest held by city fishermen at Sassoon Docks yesterday, the leader of the community told mid-day that 70 percent of the fish they catch are found between 10 and 35 nautical miles from the coast. He added that if this area is taken up by the shipping corridor, hardly any fishing will be possible there.
National Fish Workers Forum along with Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti had organised the protest meeting at Sassoon Docks. Around 2,000 people from the koli community were in attendance, and as a mark of protest, fish markets at Bhau cha Dhakka and Kasara Bunder remained shut.
Speaking to mid-day, community member Ganesh Nakhawa, also vice chairman of Purse seine Fishing Welfare Association, said, "The government plans to reserve the area between 15 and 20 nautical miles on the west coast between Gujarat and Tamil Nadu for a shipping corridor for huge cargo ships and cruise ships, and for passenger terminals, interconnection of smaller ports to larger ones. It has, however, forgotten us and the fact that most of our fish is caught from there.
The government should at least have taken us into confidence before planning this. It's just aggressively pushing its development agenda under the Sagarmala project. "There are around 2.5 lakh fishing boats on the west coast between Kutch and Kanyakumari, and as per our estimate, a hundred work on each boat directly or indirectly. This means 2.5 crore families will be affected."
Members of the community said this agenda was not acceptable to them, as the project will lead to port development and give a boost to tourism but completely collapse their fishing business. "Those involved in the project are telling us that we should go further into the sea to fish, but there is no infrastructure in place for that; for example, there is no deep sea harbour where boats can be anchored. This government is only creating hype by saying it will give us boats. The truth is only 20 per cent of our annual big catch is from the deep sea," explained Nakhwa.
Nakhwa said, "The population of the world is expected to reach 10 billion from the current 7 billion, and fish is going to become an even more important part of people's diet. When the government should be working towards increasing fish production, it's actually doing the opposite. This is going to result in food wars in the future." Till the time of going to press, there was no response from government officials.
Under the Sagarmala project, the Centre has decided to set up country's first shipping corridor between Kutch in Gujarat to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu for movement of ships by designating 15 nautical miles from the coastline.
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