With election process on the roll, fishermen's efforts to tide over coastal management zone rules to build or repair their houses have come to a naught.
Fishermen living along the nearly 50-km-long coastal line in Ernakulam district and those along the backwaters and brackish water reserves continue to be troubled by the prospects that under the present strictures from the State government on coastal zone management they may not be able to build new homes or repair the old ones.
Their efforts to seek redressal through political intervention are now on hold with the process of Lok Sabha elections setting in.
P.V. Udayan, lawyer and activist from Mulavukadu, a coastal panchayat bounded by the Vembanad backwaters, said that where political leaders had withdrawn bureaucracy was exploiting the poor fishermen. He was referring to promises by political leaders, including Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, recently that notifications issued in November on new buildings and repair of old buildings within the coastal management zones last year would be withdrawn. He alleged that the notification restricting construction within 50 metres of the coastline was not helpful to the local people, who were engaged in fishing and activities related to the sea or the backwaters.
Convenor of fishermen’s collective Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi, Charles George, alleged that the present rules only helped big tourism operators or large realty developers who were freely building big mansions along the coast while poor fishermen were not even allowed to build small houses for themselves.
He said the State government and the local bodies had failed to prepare coastal management projects, which had landed the fishermen in further trouble because their applications for permits to build houses had to be processed through the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority in Thiruvananthapuarm.
He said while large tourist operators, a greenfield airport and nuclear stations have been permitted along the coastal regulation zone areas in the country, fishermen continue to be discriminated against.
Chellanam, Kumbalanghi, Mulavukadu, Vypeen and villages lying north of the Vypeen Island are hamstrung by their proximity to the backwaters and the Arabian Sea.