Paradip fishing harbour, Odisha’s largest fishing harbour that caters to thousands of traditional marine fishermen, is today lying in a state of neglect.
Everyday, about 700 deep-sea trawlers besides over 2000 medium capacity fishing vessels begin their seaward venture from this busy harbour. It is considered as the hub of marine fishing for fishermen of both Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts. An estimated 3,000 tonnes of high-grade shrimps are exported mainly to European countries every year from here. The annual shrimp export turnover of the harbour is Rs 150 crore.
There are, however, problems galore for the fishermen and trawler operators here.
The depth of the harbour is dipping day be day. Massive silt deposit on the Mahanadi river mouth poses threat to the trawlers and vessels to get capsizes. The 500 metre-long river water channel, which the vessels sail through before making their way into the sea, has undergone severe siltation. At present, depth of water is as less as three metres in the lagoon.
Massive silt deposit is also obstructing release of Mahanadi’s floodwater into sea thereby exposing river bank settlements to the threat of flood. Dredging operation was last carried out in 2000. Even as refurbishment of the harbour has been taken up since last year with funds from the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB), the tardy progress of works has raised concern among trawler operators. NFDB had sanctioned Rs 5.72 crore for taking up various construction and renovation works including construction of a fish auction hall in the harbour.
But, lack of supervision due to frequent transfer of officials has delayed the works that were supposed to end by October this year. Sources said only 25 per cent of works under the NFDB project has been completed so far.
Similarly, the Fisheries Department had directed construction of canteen for fishermen, facilities for drinking water supply in the harbour and construction of roads to the harbour. But these works too are going on at a snail’s pace.
The harbour started functioning within the Paradip port in 1996. After it was shifted to the new harbour, problems have increased. It was carved out as an all-weather fishing harbour.
The harbour, which was under the custody of Paradip Port Trust (PPT) till 2012, was handed over to the Fishery Department as the PPT did not have enough budget for its maintenance.
President of Odisha Marine Fish Producers’ Association Sumant Biswal said it was decided that a fish auction hall would be set up at the site where fishermen sell fish now. “But no alternative arrangement for fishing trade has been made by either the Fisheries Department or NFDB. After requesting the department officials, a temporary shed is now being constructed after which, works on the auction hall would begin,” he said.
Trawler operators have, meanwhile, demanded NFDB to also take up dredging of the Mahanadi river mouth.
Additional Fishery Officer (Marine), Kujang Pramod Kumar Rout admitted to the delay and uncertainty over completion of the renovation works by October. He said a project proposal has been sent to the NFDB for dredging of Mahanadi river mouth.