CHENNAI: Fishermen from over 50 villages around the Pulicat lake on Tuesday withdrew their protest, urging the government to immediately dredge the mouth bar of Aarani river after the Collector promised action.
The river's mouth also connects the Pulicat lake with the sea, but it was clogged with sand deposits, preventing fishermen’s movement into the sea. The block also drastically alters the ecosystem, curbing healthy breeding of the catch, said K Saravanan, a fisherman, who works with the Coastal Resource Centre. “As the lake gets locked out of the sea, the salinity, temperature and acidity of the water changes. This, in turn, affects the quality of fish apart from changing its reproduction patterns,” he said.
“Although this is a good season for fishing, we are unable to venture into the sea as the silt has blocked our access,” said Durai Mahendran of Tiruvallur Maavatta Paarambariya Aikya Meenavar Sangam. He said that the livelihood of over a lakh fishermen were affected. Claiming that no one has been able to fish in the open sea for over a week, hundreds of fishermen staged a protest at the mouth of the lake on Monday and Tuesday. They, however, withdrew their protest after Collector E Sundaravalli visited the site and promised immediate action.
“We have to take both temporary and permanent action. As temporary measures, we will clear the block and ensure that fishermen can take their boats to the sea again. The work for that will begin on Wednesday,” she said. The work will be a part of the `39-lakh monsoon preparedness work to be taken up this year, of which `16 lakh would be spent on dredging the Aarani river mouth and `23 lakh would be spent to remove silt and blockage in the lake, she said.
A study by researchers from IIT-Madras, which proposed building of “training walls,” has not been implemented yet, said Durai Mahendran. This project, which is considered as a permanent solution, will involve constructing a stone wall ranging from 150m to 170m on their side and dredging the mouth to prevent silting on a long term. “We have sent across the proposals for the permanent solutions and are awaiting funds and Coastal Regulation Zone clearance,” said Sundaravalli.