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Fuel subsidy for fishermen using traditional boats sought

By Our Staff Reporter

CHENNAI, APRIL 25. Fishermen who use traditional and small mechanised boats must be granted fuel subsidies that deep-sea fishing vessels enjoy, members of the Coast Action Network (CAN) demanded here today.

In their Parliament election manifesto, members of the fishing community have asked for regular and adequate supply of fuel and subsidies similar to the ones enjoyed by those who use deep-sea fishing vessels.

To assist small fishermen and protect marine ecology, the fishermen demanded that the Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act be implemented. For instance, as per the Act, no mechanised vessel can carry out fishing operations in the sea within three nautical miles from the coastline. However, this provision was being flouted and the State must take action against the violators, the CAN members said.

"We oppose the Sethu Samudram project, which political parties have listed in their manifestos. If implemented, the project will definitely cause a lot of ecological damage, besides necessitating displacement of a number of fishing villages," Fatima Babu of Veeranganai, a non-governmental organisation based in Tuticorin said. She said rampant shrimp farming was going on in the State.

Only 617 shrimp farms were licensed, but there were many more in Tamil Nadu," Jesu Ratinam of CAN said. "Shrimp farms consume enormous quantity of groundwater, salinate drinking water, destroy coastal vegetation and use toxic steroids, chemicals and fertilizers." The Supreme Court order in this regard was being flouted in the State, Ms. Jesu Ratinam claimed.

Top on their list of demands is the issue of granting subsidy to fisherwomen too. The savings-cum-relief scheme must be extended even to women who vend fish, the organisers said. "Though they do not go out for fishing, women contribute a lot to the industry by way of post-harvest processes. But their tasks have not been recognised," Gandimathi of CAN said.

The organisation members also registered their protests against projects such as the new industrial complex SIPCOT— II at Cuddalore, the proposed fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam, excessive dumping of waste in the Ennore port area, illegal silicon sand mining in Vedaranyam and the proposed commercial harbour at Colachel.

Representatives of fishermen's associations and unions in Tamil Nadu were totally opposed to any dilution of the Coastal Regulation Zone 1991 notification. They claimed that the Central and State governments were constantly diluting the notification. "We oppose amendments to the CRZ and specifically those proposed on January 11, 2002, whereby the term `fishing community' has been substituted with `local inhabitants,' says S. Rajasekhar, joint secretary, Pulicat Coast Fishermen Association. "This term will also protect hotels, tourism resorts, industrial complexes and public sector enterprises. This will go against the interests of the community and coastal ecology," Mr. Rajasekhar said.

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