Expert panel exploring at least three ways to find a solution

An expert committee is considering adopting a new mobile communication technology to caution fishermen from straying across the international maritime boundary with Sri Lanka.

The committee, under the chairmanship of Vice Admiral B. R. Rao, the Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India, is exploring at least three ways to send out a signal to fishermen on high seas alerting imminent crossing of the international maritime boundary.

“We are looking at drawing an electronic physical line across the seas in the zone and every time a fishing boat crosses the line, an alert could be delivered on the mobile phone (s),” Vice-Admiral Rao told journalists here on Friday.

The committee, tasked to come out with solutions/options to caution Indian fishermen on the Palk Straits, is examining the possibility of sending across the message through efficacious use of light houses in the region as also installing buoys across the 80 plus metre stretch between Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu to Point Talaimanar in Sri Lanka.

Over the past few weeks, there have been reports of several Indian fishermen being rounded up by authorities in Sri Lanka. It acquired a serious tone last month after reports of a fisherman being shot by the Sri Lankan Navy. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the matter had been taken up at the official level.

The committee, constituted last month, held its first meeting here this week. Vice Admiral Rao said it had initiated talks with mobile telephone service providers to explore the possibility of emitting such caution signals. The results of initial discussions were positive. The idea was to utilise mobile telephones since most fishermen were known to be carrying them.

Traditional options

Traditional options were also being examined, he said, adding there were at least two light houses in the region whose light could start fading as the fishing boats start drifting towards the international waters. Buoys placed at measured intervals could work as surface markers to delineate the boundary.

The committee, which has other members from the Directorate-General of Lighthouses and Lightships, Tamil Nadu Maritime Board and other authorities concerned, had been asked to submit a report in six months.

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