Fisherfolk have the right to the coast                              
An interview with Jesu Rathinam of SNEHA, Nagapattinam

SNEHA is one of the local organisations working for the tsunami relief and long term rehabilitation

Government's hidden agenda and abuse of the CRZ law
The Government is trying to relocate the fisherfolk villages to areas off the seashore. At the same time it is also cordoning off these area for projects such as aquaculture and hotel industry. It is not taking any action against the violations.

“Instead, they are using fear and vulnerability of the people on the coast after the tsunami, who are now living in fear. The intention seems to be the following: if fishermen’s rights on the coast are weakened or destroyed, there will be complete freedom for the tourism industry and other industries.”



 Violation of CRZ law
The hotel industry and other private property holders are the major violators of the CRZ law. Industries like the India Rare Earths Knayakumari, Kalpakkam Power Plant in Chennai have destroyed the fragile coastal ecology.

“In spite of massive resistance from environmentalists, the coast remains a prime area for industries and thus important to the government. For the government to utilize the full potential of the coast they have to send fishermen out of the coast.”

Government Order and its threat
The Government is using vulnerability factor of these people scared after tsunami, to move them off the shore. The Government Order (25,26) clearly says that those who decide to continue to stay within 200 meters of the High Tide Line will not get any Government support. It says that within 500m there should not be any homes. After 500meters or 1 km away from the coast houses can be built.

Campaign against abuse of the law
“The Tamil Nadu Government hasn’t interpreted the law properly. From the year 1996,since the coastal Action Network was formed, the violations of the law have been constantly questioned by us. We have demanded legal regulation to curb the violations that are in practice in the coastal areas.”

The traditional fishermen Vs Globalization
“Today the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and UN declaration has recommended the displacement of traditional fishing practices by modern harbour based fishing to the Indian Government. This will lead to the displacement of traditional fishing communities and welcome big fishing and shipping corporations.”

Accelerated impact of tsunami
Prawn farm and salt industries
There is an ongoing struggle between these industries and the traditional fishermen and agricultural labourers. The impact of tsunami was worse in few areas due to the presence of these industries. Some of these industries continue to function illegally.

Natural Barriers
Mangroves, Sand dunes
Mangroves and sand dunes act as natural barriers. In some places the impact of tsunami was less due to these barriers.

Sethusamudram Canal Project