CHENNAI: For more than a month now, fishermen of 50 hamlets in and around Pulicat lake, 60 km from the city have not gone for fishing. The lake spread across 300 sq km is brimmed to its capacity making fishing impossible, thereby directly affecting their livelihood. But, the fishermen prefer not to move out of their villages for a month.
What makes them survive is their traditional system or ‘Meenava varaimurai’ as the General secretary of the Tiruvallur district traditional fishermen association Durai Mahendran (32) of Sattan Kuppam puts it.
“As our villages are flooded there is no chance of fishing in the lake. We prefer to stay here. It is safe here for us and we are used to the rising and drying up of water levels,” Mahendran told Express. For fishing in the lake, the water should be about a 10 feet high. But, now the water level in the lake is same as that of the shorelines.
Food and other essentials are arranged by sourcing from a common trust, which is a traditional practice among fishing villages. The fishermen, by their own admission do not want to heed into the requests of the Tiruvallur district administration to move out of their villages into temporary shelters. Some of their men work as labourers in the prawn farms in neighbouring villages until they can get back to fishing.
Apart from the fishermen who fish at the lake, there are about 20 villages which engage in deep sea fishing.
“Water flow in the mouth which leads to the sea is heavy and we can’t venture inside. Plus the water is severely polluted and the water which drains into the sea is coming back into the banks carrying all the waste from other lakes,” M Prabhu of Pudhu Kuppam, President of the fishermen cooperative association said.
According to K Bharathi, President, South Indian Fishermen welfare association, dredging of the lake and the mouth which should have been done after the British left the country is still not being done.”
Even as the flood water recedes and the water level in the lake returns to conducive levels, repair of boats which got damaged would take another month for them to go about their business.