With the 205 km long National Waterway No 3 from Kollam to Kottapuram expected to be opened by the year end, the fishermen community is apprehensive that the development will leave the existence of around 5,000 fishermen in a lurch. Realising the urgent need to address the issue, various workers’ organisations are planning to organise a campaign across the state by the first week of June.
Experts in the field are of the opinion that the opening of the National Waterway is crucial for Kerala, as the state proposes to transport at least 20 per cent of the cargo through coastal shipping by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020.
T Peter, Secretary, National Fish Workers Forum, is of the opinion that although the National Waterway is needed, the livelihood of around 5,000 fishermen has to be protected alongside.
“We demand a special package for those fishermen who would become jobless on account of the waterway. As of now, the government is planning to solve the issue unilaterally. If our demands are not addressed we will intensify our agitations against the project,” he added. Kollam-Kottapuram is the first National Waterway in the country, with 24-hour navigation facilities planned along the entire stretch. The waterway consists of the West coast canal (Kottapuram-Kollam) 168 km, Udyogamandal canal (Kochi-Pathalam bridge) 23 km and Champakara canal (Kochi-Ambalamugal) 14 km.
Charles George, president, the Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi, and convener, the Fisheries Coordination Committee said that around 1,200 stake nets and 100 Chinese fishing nets will be removed as part of the waterway project.
“During the LDF regime the compensation for a fishing net was fixed at Rs 1 lakh. This is too low as the annual revenue from a net is `2.5 lakh.
“Our demand is `4 lakh for a licensed net and Rs 3 lakh for non-licensed ones. Apart from this, a special package for the displaced fishermen should also be in place,” he added.
K Mohandas, former secretary, Ministry of Shipping, is of the opinion that once the National waterway becomes operational the apprehensions of fishermen will vanish.