Bad roads, piles of garbage, streetlights that don’t work, no toilets or drinking water — all this, at the heart of the metropolis in the Kasimedu fishing harbour.
Though the harbour is where most of the city’s daily consumption of 100 tonnes of fish lands, its infrastructure inside is pathetic, say fishermen.
In February this year, the chairman of the Chennai Port Trust visited the harbour and promised that basic amenities would be improved. The visit came after talks with fishermen about their demands, including reclamation of around 100 metres of land where their fishing stalls would come up.
The land on which the stalls are presently located is required to widen a portion of the road that forms part of the Ennore Manali Road Improvement Project.
P. Sesha of the Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram Mechanised Fishing Boats Owners Association said that since the Port Trust controlled the harbour, agencies like Chennai Corporation and Chennai Metrowater could not enter the premises.
“It is the duty of the Port Trust to arrange for water supply, which it has not done. The two toilet complexes that are coming up now are hardly enough for the 5,000 persons who work here. On weekdays around 10,000 people come to the harbour and on Sundays, the number doubles,” he said.
As there are no dustbins and no clearance of garbage, fishermen are forced to dispose of thermocol and plastics in the water, he said.
Nanjil Ravi of Akila Indhiya Meenavar Sangam said that among the seven demands of the fisherfolk was power connection for the sheds in which fish are packed in ice to be sent to markets outside. But that has not been done and the sheds remain dark. Even streetlights inside don’t work,” he complained.
Mr. Ravi also said that welfare funds meant for improving facilities inside the harbour and neighbouring villages have not been spent so far by the Port Trust. “In Ennore where a new port has come up, they have promised jobs for the affected, but in most cases fisherfolk are taken in as contract labourers,” he pointed out.
M. D. Dayalan of the Indhiya Meenavar Sangam said that in case of emergencies, the harbour does not even have a first aid station or an ambulance. “Last year alone we had several instances of fisherfolk returning home injured or people getting injured on the wharf but we have had to rush them to hospitals in autorickshaws. Unlike other fishing harbours, which are under the control of the State fisheries department, this one is under the control of the Port Trust we have no other go but to keep asking them,” he said.
Ko. Su. Mani of the Tamil Nadu Meenavar Makkal Sangam said that with hundreds of companies setting up units along the coast, the catch in the State had begun to dwindle. “Thanks to immense pollution, fish exports from the Kasimedu harbour are almost nil. All the associations have been demanding that the State government take over the harbour so that facilities can be improved,” he said.
Sources at the Chennai Port Trust said that two toilet complexes were being constructed presently. One internal road was being widened and steps would be taken to re-lay other roads, an official said. The Trust had also made an agreement with a private company for reclamation of land and they awaiting Coastal Regulation Zone clearance.