CHENNAI: Lack of toilet facilities at the Kasimedu fishing harbour is not only creating health problems for women but is also burning a hole in their pockets.
Muthulakshmi who has been selling fish for the past five decades at the old fishing harbour in Kasimedu, keeps aside Rs 200 every day to travel to her house at RK Nagar every time she needs to use the toilet. For Muthulakshmi whose daily wage is not more than Rs 1,000, this expenditure is a huge blow to her savings.
Due to lack of sanitation facilities at both old and new fishing harbours at Kasimedu, close to 500 woman fish sellers are forced to defecate in the open, under the shade of parked trucks and boats. “I have developed problems in my kidney over the years as I couldn’t urinate when I want to. I come to the harbour at 4 am and go back home only late in the evening. During this time, there are no toilets in the vicinity to relieve ourselves,” said 72-year-old Muthulakshmi.
When Express visited the spot, two toilets near the fishing harbour built and maintained by the Chennai Port Trust were locked. Locals said they have been locked for the past six months. The only functional toilet is located two kilometres from the harbour on Ennore High Road.
“Three months ago government officials visited the harbour and removed all the garbage. They assured us that they will soon provide drinking water and toilet facilities for fish vendors. But, I have no hope that our situation will ever improve. Women who are on their periods suffer the most,” said Shankari, a fish vendor who resides at Thiruchina Kuppam at Tiruvottriyur.
Other issues like dumping of garbage along the harbour and lack of drinking water facilities are the major woes raised by fishermen and vendors. Moreover, fish vendors have been requesting the authorities to build a permanent shed like structure along the harbour to provide respite from the heat and rain. “It is impossible to sit under the scorching sun throughout the day. We have to wait until the boats return to the shore with fish. The situation is worse when it rains,” said Kannagi of Tondiarpet.
Officials from Zone 4 of the Corporation, Tondiarpet, confirmed that both the harbours come under the purview of Chennai Port Trust, which is the sole authority responsible for providing basic amenities here.
“Women suffer the most. Most are forced to defecate in the same place they work for a living. Many have developed health problems because they try to eat less as there is no place to relieve themselves. The harbour doesn’t come under the Corporation and the port authorities ignore our complaints,” said K N Arunkanth, convenor of North Madras Fishermen Association.
However, when Express contacted officials from Chennai Port Trust they said as tenure of the previous contractor expired two months ago, overall improvement of the harbour is delayed. “Our special team is working on the tender process and bidding for a new private contractor will start in the next 15 days. Once this is done, toilet, road maintenance and garbage collection will be regularised. The harbour management committee was recently changed. The new committee will sort out the problems soon,” said a port official.