Kasimedu’s fisherfolk are demanding that a proposal to use land — on which their fish landing centre, stalls and selling point are located — to widen the road leading to the Chennai Port’s zero gate be given up. The road is being widened as part of the Ennore Manali Road Improvement Project (EMRIP).
“The sea shore and the sands traditionally belong to the fishing community. If this piece of land is taken away from us, fishing operations in the harbour will come to a standstill. Every day around 110 tonnes of fish land in the harbour, 10,000 fisherfolk work, and transactions worth Rs. 9 crore happen,” said M.D. Dayalan of the Indhiya Meenavar Sangam addressing a press conference here on Wednesday.
The fisherfolk said that shops that have been constructed for them are too small. “Four operations happen at the spot. We segregate the fish for local markets, for markets within the country, for export, and for drying. Fish meant for other locations is packed in ice and sent in thermocol boxes. Buyers, both wholesale and retail, come here to transact rates,” explained Nanjil P Ravi of Akila Indhiya Meenavar Sangam.
Representatives of at least 20 associations, who took part in the meeting, alleged that they were never consulted when the project to widen the road was initiated. “The port calls us encroachers… we are not. We have been working at Kasimedu for generations. The port is the new entrant. The Madras High Court in its judgement in 1986 had said that our lives must not be disturbed by any project,” explained K.Shankar of Thenn Indhiya Meenava Nala Sangam.
The fisherfolk are suggesting that either the Port open gates that are currently closed or land be reclaimed to accommodate their landing centre where hundreds of catamarans, trawlers and FRP boats land.
To stress their point, they have planned a series of agitations including a black flag agitation on August 15, sending one lakh telegrams to the Chief Minister and finally blocking entrances to the Chennai Port.