THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even before the southwest monsoon has set in, traditional fishermen in coastal Thiruvananthapuram are staring at a bleak future with the mid-May rainfall assuming monsoon-like proportions.
At Shangumugham and Valiyathura, fishing boats have been hauled up the beach, well out of the reach of the crashing waves. Fishing has become an impossibility even before the monsoon has struck the coast, the fishermen said. Just one week of rainfall and the Shangumugham beach - a popular hangout of the public - has “disappeared” under invading waves. The sky is leaden and not a single fishing craft has ventured out to sea.
“We began dragging up the boats on Sunday morning. Normally the boats are beached 10-15 metres farther down,” said Vincent, a stocky man who was supervising the ‘mission’ which engaged the efforts of 18-20 men per boat. The work involved lifting the heavy boat onto two fibre pipes, improvised as rollers, and heaving with all their might.
“Usually, we undertake this job during June-July. This year, the sea has turned rough weeks in advance,” he said.
The boats, made from Anjili wood and capable of carrying eight to nine men, are the sole means to earn a livelihood for the men and their families. Nearby lies an example of what would happen to the boats if they were left to the mercy of the waves - the smashed remains of one that was left unattended in the night. The planks have been ripped apart by the waves. “Nothing can be done about that boat now,” said Lazar, one of the fishermen, seated on a beached ‘kattamaram’.
The rest of the boats have been dragged up close to the Shangumugham-Valiyathura road. With fishing in this weather an impossibility, the boats have been wrapped tightly in blue tarp, and some have been tethered to the beach. “Now that they cannot go out to sea, the fishermen families will be facing hunger. The government’s attention falls here only when disaster strikes. The sea will turn even rough in June,” T Peter, national secretary, National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), said.