Proposal submitted to Department of Fisheries, Thiruvananthapuram Corporation

At a time when there are discussions galore about Emerging Kerala meet and promoting grassroots-level development, why is there no talk about launching such schemes focusing on the coastline of the State and the fisherfolk, asks Robert Panipilla, a researcher in traditional fishing and coastal issues.

As per a request from Valiathura ward councillor Tony Oliver, Mr. Panipilla, himself a resident of Valiathura, has prepared a proposal regarding the construction of an off-shore floating platform and artificial reef modules in the sea.

“Fisheries come under the Agricultural Department but the only process involved here has been that of reaping, and never that of sowing,” said Mr. Robert.

“It was high time that we facilitated biological growth within the sea and simultaneously improved the economic status of the fisherfolk,” he said.

The proposal was submitted to the Department of Fisheries; Minister of Health V.S. Sivakumar, who is also the local MLA; and the city Corporation authorities a few weeks ago.

P.K. Udayakumar, Assistant Private Secretary to Mr. Sivakumar, said: “There are lots of ideas regarding the development of coastal areas, but they can be implemented only after feasibility studies.” Studies were already under way regarding two projects, at Valiathura and Poonthura, he said. “In the light of the number of ongoing projects, this particular one will be taken up later, probably linked with tourism development,” he said.

Mr. Robert said theirs was not a radically new project requiring environmental impact studies from scratch. “The government has set aside Rs.57 lakh for the creation of artificial reef modules and over the course of this year 360 such modules have been created,” he said. Contractors were entrusted with this responsibility. The local people could be employed for the same for a much lower sum, he said.

He described about a project taken up 16 years ago by the local people to create artificial reefs. It helped in significantly alter the depleting fish resources in the water close to the shore. “Three years later, in an underwater photography and videography project, we managed to document the proof, of how simple techniques were able to bring about such beneficial changes,” explained Mr. Robert.

The novel aspect in the proposal pertains to the construction of a floating platform, around seven nautical miles off-shore. Mr. Robert said a number of materials, including ferro-cement and plywood could be used for its construction. He cited the example of the floating restaurant at Veli and a resort at Poovar to indicate the feasibility of the project.

Additional attachments, to provide shade and a resting area for the fishermen, and a light at the bottom, a tried-and-tested technique to lure fish, are part of the design.

Mr. Oliver said that fishing from boats permitted only one type of fishing—either hook and line or net. Multi-type fishing could be encouraged if such a platform was constructed, he said. The safety angle further buttresses their proposal.