Shattered Lives of Fishermen Left Dry – The New Indian Express
Express press service
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With erratic weather conditions due to climate change, the threat of year-round cyclonic storms and the advancing sea, the fishing community of Thiruvananthapuram struggles against many obstacles every day. With their livelihoods hampered, these fishermen struggle to support their families. Due to weather disturbances, they rarely fish these days. These families are constantly threatened with displacement and starvation.
Since Ockhi hit the shores, cyclonic storms have become a regular affair in the state but Kerala is still not ready to handle them. Over the past three to four years, coastal areas have been eaten away by sea erosion. State departments lack experience in preventing such natural disasters.
Rise in kerosene prices
The intermittent rise in the price of kerosene has also paralyzed the fishing community. Jackson Pollayil from the Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation said, “Even if the fishermen go out to sea, they are unable to make a profit because they are spending more on fuel now. The number of days they can fish has also gone down significantly,” Jackson said. In 2021, fishermen in Kerala lost about 76 working days.
“The state government should compensate the fishermen for the days they lost. Disaster management precautions are stifling their livelihoods. Government agencies should cancel all loans to fishermen struggling to survive. Agencies like Mathsyafed offer loans to fishermen at 12.5% interest with additional service charges,” Jackson said.
Families facing displacement
Valiyathura, a coastal hamlet in the capital, is the most affected. Over the past four years, around 1,200 houses have been destroyed and swallowed up by the sea in Valiyathura alone. The situation is similar in Cheriyathura, Bheemapally, Kochuthoppu, Valiyathopp, Kannanthura and Vettucaud. Xavier Andrews, a traditional fisherman, and his family from Valiyathura live in constant fear of displacement.
“About four rows of houses along the coast of Valiyathura have been washed away by the advancing sea. My house, which belonged to my mother, where I have lived for 45 years, will be gone this monsoon. measures to protect us and our property. Hundreds of homes are washed away every year. I was asked to move to the relief camp,” Xavier said.
The lack of profit plunged Xavier’s family into a deep financial crisis. “There is no shore to fish. You have to go to Vizhinjam to venture into the sea. Local fishermen often create friction here. But that’s the only work I know of,” he added. Former Valiyathura Ward Councilor Tony Oliver said 50 of Kerala’s 140 constituencies are coastal areas and changes in government failed the fishing community.
“They don’t have clean water or sewage lines. Apart from announcements, no project has been launched to protect the coast from the advancing sea. They just want our votes. There is also no opposition to help elevate our demands,” Tony said.
Non-scientific fishing activities
The destruction of the coastline has damaged the livelihoods of approximately 4,500 kambavala (gillnet) fishermen. There are approximately 87 kambavala units in Poonthura. “Thousands of dollars worth of fishing equipment has been damaged and I am in deep financial crisis. We have to distribute more money for fishing and it is no longer profitable,” said Antony Stancilas, a traditional kambavala fisherman.
“The state issues random warnings on certain days and prevents us from venturing into the sea, even when the weather is normal. It should stop. Weather warnings should be more accurate because our livelihoods depend on it. Unscientific fishing activities carried out by industrial units have become rampant. Many countries and other states restrict trawling activities to improve marine resources. Traditional fishermen are coming back empty-handed because of all this,” said Anto Elias, vice president of Mathsyathozhili Karshaka Samyukta Samara Samiti.