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Back at sea after 40 days

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, FEB. 6. It was a red-letter day for the fisherfolk of Nallathanneerodaikuppam and two other coastal hamlets in Tiruvallur district today, as they ventured into sea in 26 refurbished mechanised boats after a gap of over 40 days, thanks to the timely assistance extended by the Tamil Nadu Road Development Company (TNRDC), a joint sector unit.

After being flagged off by the Law Minister, D. Jayakumar, the Social Welfare Minister, B. Valarmathi, the Tiruvallur Collector, Kumar Jayant, and the TNRDC chief executive officer, Rohit Modi, the fibreglass boats, carrying 100-odd fishermen, zoomed off.

Mr. Jayakumar said fishermen of all the 13 coastal districts had resumed operations, shaking off the effects of the December 26 tsunami strike, even as the administration intensified the third phase of relief and rehabilitation. Responding to the Government's appeal, non-governmental organisations and private agencies had come forward to assist in the rehabilitation effort.

Allaying fears about the quality of the fish harvested, he said that the high degree of public awareness about the advantage of consuming fish helped the fisherfolk market their catch without difficulty. Ms. Valarmathi and Mr. Jayakumar also handed over new nets to the beneficiaries.

R. Desingh, leader of the Nallathanneerodaikuppam fishing community, commended the TNRDC for repairing the damaged boats. "Had they not come to our rescue, it would have taken another month for us to set out to sea." Forty-eight boats and 76 catamarans were badly damaged by the tsunami, he said.

According to him, 33 boats — 27 in his village and 3 each in Lakshmipuram and Ondikuppam — had been refurbished. Each beneficiary had been given the net of his choice. The community had also contributed to the repair work to the extent possible, he said.

P.V. Ramamurthy, an expert in the fisheries sector representing the TNRDC, said the refurbishing project had been completed within a fortnight at a cost of Rs.10 lakhs.

While 26 boats had become fully sea-worthy and handed over to the beneficiaries, seven were being given the finishing touches.

Fisherfolk's initiative

The job would not have been fulfilled without the cooperation of the fisherfolk, who brought the damaged boats in bullock carts from Nagorechathiram to the hull. The boat crew also assembled their nets to suit their needs. A fibreglass plastic moulder was called in to make the boats sea-worthy. Local mechanics, involved in repairing the engines, were happy to perform the job at a lower labour cost.

Raw materials such as fibregall mat, resin, thinners etc., were purchased from Pondicherry to ensure that the work was cost-effective.

"This will definitely help the fishermen to manage for the time being. But this is not the end of it. There is much more the fishermen require to continue fishing for a calendar year. They need different types of nets such as gill net, mackerel net, sadin net and trammal net to catch different species which occur in different seasons. We have provided just one", Mr.Ramamurthy said.

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