Govt sets time frame of one and a half years for permanent solution to Muthalapozhi harbour issues

The harbour has seen a number of fishing boat mishaps leading to the death of 73 fishermen.
Boats set out for fishing from the estuary at Muthalapozhi  fishing harbour in Thiruvananthapuram
Boats set out for fishing from the estuary at Muthalapozhi  fishing harbour in Thiruvananthapuram (Photo |B P Deepu, EPS)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government intends to find a permanent solution to the safety and infrastructure issues related to the Muthalapozhi harbour in Thiruvananthapuram over the next one and a half years, Fisheries Minister Saji Cheriyan informed the Assembly on Monday.

The minister was replying to the Opposition's demand to discuss the matter through an adjournment motion. Not convinced by the government's assurance, the Opposition staged a walkout from the assembly in protest. The harbour has been the scene of numerous fishing boat mishaps leading to the death of 73 fishermen.

Congress' M Vincent, who gave notice for the adjournment motion, said the government had conducted a series of meetings but no action was forthcoming on addressing the safety issues relating to the harbour. He also alleged collusion between the government and Adani group, which had not fulfilled its commitment of carrying out periodic dredging of the harbour channel as laid down in an agreement.

"Removal of sand and rock that has accumulated at the harbour entrance and channel is the main issue which the government has failed to address. This has caused the deaths of 73 fishermen. The delay on the part of the government amounts to criminal negligence," Vicent alleged.

In his reply, the Fisheries Minister assured that a Rs. 164 crore project, to address safety concerns and improve infrastructure of the harbour, has been submitted to the Union government for its approval. The Centre has given in-principle approval for the project, for which it will bear 60 per cent of the cost while the state will bear the remaining 40 per cent, he said.

Boats set out for fishing from the estuary at Muthalapozhi  fishing harbour in Thiruvananthapuram
Stiff resistance from fishermen halts plan to shut down Muthalapozhi

"The last study report sought by the Union government will be submitted within a month and subject to the Centre's approval, the tender process for construction will begin within two months. The government intends to find a permanent solution to the issue in the next one and a half years," Cheriyan said.

Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan asked the government why it gave repeated extensions to Adani group to complete the dredging. He suggested that the government should take over the dredging process and ask Adani group to pay the expense incurred.

Satheesan alleged that not a single rupee has been spent from the Rs. 50 lakh earmarked in the budget for the Muthalapozhi master plan and another Rs. 10 lakh for coastal area maintenance. He also accused the government of going back on its assurance of deploying rescue divers, ambulances and rescue boats around the harbour.

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