Company says it is setting up a shipbuilding yard and not a fishmeal factory

The mere mention of a fishmeal factory sends a shudder down the spines of people of the Bengre peninsula. Reactions vary from angry opposition to fears of stench and pollution that would emanate from the factory. Many residents question: “Why can’t they find land somewhere else?”

Though fishing is the main livelihood of thousands of people who live on the peninsula stretching from Thannir Bhavi to Thota Bengre, there is visible apprehension about the possibility of a fishmeal factory coming up at Kasba Bengre – the geographic mean of Bengre.

On Wednesday, construction material lay strewn on the area demarcated for the first fishmeal factory. The Jamia Masjid Kudroli, the Kudroli temple, and multi-storeyed office complexes of Car Street, Kudroli, Alake, Urva lie on the other bank of the greenish waters of Gurupura.

Ever since the 4,080 square metres of land, which hitherto served as a playground, was leased out in 2008 by the Port and Inland Water Transportation Department to H.S. Nissar of Baraka Overseas Traders, which runs a chain of fishmeal factories in Ullal, there has been an outrage, evident from the multiple protests in the city.

Billal Moiuddin of Jamaat-al-Madrassa said following this allotment three other companies were granted land in Kasba Bengre by the department. “All these four companies run fishmeal factories in the district. Residents in Ullal, for example, have been leaving their homes because of the smell. The dumping of wastage into the river will be hazardous to all those living in Bengre,” he said.

This suspicion is echoed across the peninsula. “We won’t be able to take the smell. And definitely won’t be able to run the anganwadi here,” said Rameeza, a teacher at the Kasba Bengre anganwadi. The anganwadi, which is attended by 25 children, runs in the Super Star Sports Club and is adjacent to the controversial site.

Similarly, Ayesha Farzana, a homemaker who lives near the site, said it would be unthinkable to continue living there if the factory came up. “The only source of water for us is the well as the river is too saline. However, if the factory comes up, even the well will be polluted. I can’t risk the health of my three children,” she said.

Suspicions unfounded

Mr. Nissar said the protests and suspicions were unfounded as the company was constructing a shipbuilding yard. “There is no plan for a fishmeal factory. I have given an undertaking in this regard, and yet the protests continue,” he said.

This is buttressed by the port officials who said the lease agreement was specifically for dry dock and ship building purposes. “The allegations are meaningless, baseless and politically motivated. The agreement does not allow for a fishmeal factory to come up,” said an official.

The official said the companies had deposited the money, and the lease agreement would come to fruition.

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