CHENNAI: During the monsoon, the Kovalam beach is lined with plastics and dead water hyacinth. While this environmental change ruins the aesthetic feel of this popular surfing destination, there are consequences that aren’t apparent to a casual observer.
The hyacinth and plastic are flushed into the ocean near this fishing hamlet at the Muttukadu estuary. These seasonal intruders get caught in the nets of fishermen and drastically reduce their catch.
During the monsoon, most fishermen who cast their nets around are forced to use fishing rods to catch fish and have to make do with minimal profits. After the first spell of the monsoon rains this year, only two fishermen are still casting nets.
“Seawater infested with plastic and hyacinth chases fish away and we barely catch enough to cover the costs of diesel,” said K Mohan, one of the two fishermen who is persisting with nets during this period.
When Express accompanied Mohan to retrieve his nets on Thursday morning, it found that the fishermen of this hamlet were not exaggerating their plight. While his first net yielded a few lobsters (which brought a smile to his face because restaurant owners pay well for lobsters), the other two yielded very few fish and lots of plastic.
Plastic bags outnumbered his catch and the plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable domestic waste just added salt to his wounds. “The lobsters will fetch me around `1500 but this amount will have to be shared by three people and also cover the cost of diesel,” Mohan said.
Over the years, Mohan has had to cast his nets further and further away from the Muttukadu estuary next to the iconic natural cove to avoid catching ageing plastic. “Earlier we used to cast nets half-a-kilometre from the cove. Now we go two or three kilometres away,” he said as he proudly displayed his new GPS tracker. While the Adyar river has trash booms to filter plastic and other miscellaneous objects from entering the sea, there is no such arrangement on the Kovalam basin which floods the sea with irresponsibly thrown domestic waste.
“A protective net is needed and we asked the local administration to set it up before the onset of the monsoon but they haven’t responded,” said P Jayakumar, a senior fisherman in Kovalam.
However, a study is being done on the Muttukadu estuary and trash booms have been envisioned. Without the study translating into a proposal yet, fishermen fear that the envisioned plans will not materialise and they will ave to make do with lean catches in monsoons ahead.