Fishing communities on long march to protect livelihood

May 11th, 2008 - 1:57 pm ICT by admin  

By Papri Sri Raman
Chennai, May 11 (IANS) With the government saying its new coastal zone management (CZM) rules will come into effect at June-end, about two million people living in India’s 3,200-odd coastal villages and hundreds of towns fear for their livelihood. These are the people who harvest almost two million tonnes of fish and other marine resources every year. On May 1 the National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) began a two-month protest march along the coast.

With a 7,600-km coastline, India earns nearly Rs.5 billion a year from sea product exports, about four percent of the country’s foreign exchange income.

The NFF campaign is called Machhimar Adhikar Rashtriya Abhiyan (national march for fishermen’s rights). It began from the Gujarat coast and will go along the coast before ending in Kolkata June 27.

This ’save the coast - save fisheries’ campaign will be followed by a march to parliament by the fishermen in July.

NFF chairperson Harekrishna Debnath said: “Special Economic Zones (SEZ), Special Tourism Zones (STZ), hazardous polluting industries and private ports are thronging along the coast in an unprecedented pace. “The CZM notification (will) ring the death knell of the coast. To add fuel to fire, foreign fishing vessels are being brought into our waters once again.”

The forum has demanded recognition of the “inalienable traditional and customary rights of fisherpeople over coastal lands and waters”.

Reacting to the CZM notification draft, the NFF has objected to SEZs, nuclear power plants, polluting and destructive projects on the coast.

It has also opposed intensive aquaculture, which the CZM allows.

The NFF has called for lifting of “all bans on fishing by traditional small-scale fisherpeople using sustainable fishing gear and techniques”.

It has also called for a “regional mechanism to facilitate reciprocal access to adjacent maritime waters of neighbouring countries”.

“Fishworkers should not be made victims of maritime boundary disputes,” Debnath said, keeping in mind the disputes between Indian and Pakistani fishermen on one hand, and between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen on the other.

The NFF has asked the government to “stop foreign vessels from fishing in our waters”.

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