CHENNAI: While sundry development and infrastructure projects beautify the coastline from Chennai along ECR, fishermen are often left to fend for themselves. The lives of Karikattu Kuppam fishermen in Muttukadu are no better. Sea erosion is eating up their boat parking area and now authorities are stopping them from laying a kutcha road on their patta land along the beach front.
Karikattu Kuppam in Muttukadu, 32 km from Chennai, was a bustling fishing hamlet claimed to be a 150-year-old settlement. All that changed after the tsunami, which left four people, including two children, dead, severely damaged property and left the population of about 1,500 homeless. However, the government has provided new homes to them two kilometres down south.
Now, a new trouble started for the fishermen after sea erosion swallowed close to 400 metres of beach after several unauthorised bungalows and groynes were constructed. Literally, there is no beach left for the fishermen to park their boats and dry their nets close to their village. As an alternative, the fishermen wanted to clean three acres of land clse to their original village on Muthukadu beach front and lay a kutcha mud road. Fishermen claim it’s their patta land registered in the name of the ancient Nagalamma temple, which has been abandoned post-tsunami.
Police and revenue officials, however, have stopped the fishermen from laying the road and seized a JCB leading to tension in the area.Murugan, fishermen leader and native of Karikattu Kuppam, alleged that police were acting on the behest of a private shrimp hatchery which has laid pipeline in their land and was allegedly discharging untreated waste water into the sea.
The hatchery in operation for the last 20 years is drawing seawater and releasing the polluted discharge into sea using an outlet pipe that cuts through the fishermen’s land parcel.“Police are stopping us from laying road on our land as it would damage hatchery’s pipeline,” Murugan charged.For the past two weeks, there has been tension in the village and officials have been evading meeting fishermen.
Last week, hundreds of fisherfolk thronged the beach front opposite hatchery and threatened to break the pipeline, but police intervened and Village Accounts Officer Hemalatha has promised to arrange a meeting with tahsildar and get the area surveyed by revenue officials.When contacted, tahsildar Raj Kumar told Express that he was not aware of the issue as he joined office only recently, but promised to look into the matter. “I got to know that police had stopped fishermen from laying the road on the beach. The ownership of the land needs to be checked,” he said.
Meanwhile, J12 Kanathur inspector (law and order) Riyazudeen alleged there were no proper records for the land in question.“Some claim the land is in the name of an individual person and other say it is the property of the temple. There is also another version according to which it is a government poromboke land. Under these circumstances, we can’t allow the villagers to construct road. Let the revenue officials survey the land and check the land records. I have written to tahsildar briefing him about law and order situation and requested him to hold peace meeting and establish the ownership of the land,’ he said.
The police official also said the hatchery had been in operation for past 20 years and the local fishermen regularly get financial aid. “Now, there is some disagreement and these villagers have broken their pipeline. We have registered a complaint against 18 persons following a complaint.”Manoharan, vice-president of the Karikattu Kuppam Fishermen Co-operative Society, alleged that because of hatchery activities the fish catch has come down drastically.