Vizhinjam: Expert report suggests panel oversee rehab, compensation
Estimates annual value of ecosystem services in Vizhinjam at approximately C222 crore
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An expert committee report on Vizhinjam seaport has urged the government to constitute an inter-departmental committee to oversee the speedy and faultless implementation of all resettlement and compensation packages for the affected fishing communities. The soon-to-be-released report, prepared by prominent scientists, disaster management experts and social scientists under the banner of Janakeeya Padana Samithi, comprehensively analyses the Vzhinjam issue besides providing long-term remedial measures.
The report notes that the ongoing port construction at Vizhinjam has presented a complex array of challenges to the local fishing community. A total of 8 sq km of vital fishing zone has been lost in Vizhinjam because of the absence of a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis prior to the project launch. This has affected traditional fishing practices resulting in substantial income loss to the fishers. But the compensation for the livelihood loss has been insufficient, states the report.
The report estimates the annual value of the ecosystem services in Vizhinjam at approximately Rs 222 crore. “Moreover, there are considerable losses in value due to the cessation of reef fishing (Rs 12 crore per annum), the inability to conduct shore-seine fishing (Rs 27 crore per annum), and the disruption of beach-based sports and recreational activities (Rs 23 crore per annum) resulting from the project’s impact.
The loss incurred from the decline in tourism in the region is estimated at Rs 78 crore. Additionally, the use value, option value, and existence value of the sandy beaches amount to Rs 1,665 crore. In a nutshell, the overall annual value of ecosystem services lost due to the Vizhinjam port project is estimated at Rs 2,027 crore, underscoring the need for comprehensive environmental assessments with a focus on environmental sustainability and economic development,” the report said.
The expert panel urges the government to ensure that compensation for income losses and other adverse impacts is distributed among all affected parties, and also to provide proper accommodation and facilities for those who lost their houses and assets. It also urges the government to engage the local community, particularly women, in the decision-making process and consider their perspectives when planning and implementing the future phases of the project to minimize adverse impacts. Historian Ramachandra Guha will release the report in Thiruvananthapuram on World Fisheries Day on November 21.