KOCHI: The traditional fishermen should be given primary rights over coastal resources on the lines of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, said ecologist-scientist Madhav Gadgil. Sharing his thoughts with Express on the sidelines of a convention on the challenges posed by the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) notification at Ashir Bhavan in the city on Thursday, he said modernisation of fisheries has only led to depletion of fishing resources world over.
“I have been following the developments in the fisheries sector since 1963. Only the manufacturers of fishing boats and crafts has benefitted from the technological advancement in fisheries. The trawlers have destroyed the breeding grounds of the marine beings. Though there was an initial increase in fish landing, it started declining steadily leading to loss of livelihood to fishermen,” said Gadgil.
He said unbridled industrialisation has destroyed natural resources and caused loss of livelihood to people depending on them. “Governments claim industrialisation creates more job. But the pollution of Vashishti River and Dabhol estuary in Maharashtra is a classic example. The chemical industries located upstream were releasing the effluents into the river and 25 out of the 30 fish species endemic to the region became extinct. While the industries provided job to 11,000 people, 25,000 fishermen lost their livelihood, said Gadgil.
“Economic growth makes only a small section of people wealthy. In this situation, I think it is proper for the communities dependent on natural resources for livelihood to assert their rights. Tourism sector should not be given freedom to deny the rights of the coastal community on the resources,” said Gadgil.
Criticising the decision to reduce the CRZ No Development Zone from 200 m to 50 m and promote tourism facilities in the coastal areas, he said unbridled development in the coastal areas will displace the fishermen and will have catastrophic aftermaths. Global warming will trigger a rise in sea level and allowing construction close to the shore can be dangerous. “This will lead to the depletion of groundwater, contamination of groundwater resources due to intrusion of salt water and accumulation of garbage and sewage along the coastline, apart from loss of livelihood to fishermen.
“If the fishermen are given primary right over coastal resources, they will ensure sustainable development. The Forest Rights Act is a classic example. The tribals harvest forest resources judiciously and manage the forest in a sustainable way,” said Gadgil.Criticising the Kerala Government’s refusal to stop sand mining at Alappad in Kollam district, he said, “It is unfortunate the Communists have become part of the same system of supporting the interests of the wealthy in the name of development. The ideology they profess is not operational on the ground”.
Madhav Gadgil, who authored the landmark report on conservation of Western Ghats, also said political parties should not field candidates who face allegations of encroachment. According to a report around 30 per cent of our MPs have criminal background. Unfortunately, political parties are increasingly dependent on muscle power and money power. This is brazen shameless behaviour, he said.