Each year, as peak summer approaches, fisherfolk brace themselves to face fires. As the 45-day fishing ban comes into effect from April 15, fishermen use this time to repair their boats. The wooden boats are brought to shore, and fires are lit for various purposes including for bending of the wooden logs to place in boats.
“The season is very windy and despite our taking several precautions, fires erupt and spread. Each year at least 10-15 wooden craft are damaged in these accidents. The nearest fire station is at Royapuram and with fire tenders having to negotiate traffic, it takes them over 15 minutes to reach the spot by which time only cinders are left,” said P. Sesha of the Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram Mechanised Fishing Boats Owners Association.
Not many boat owners have insurance, as it is generally beyond their means. Building new wooden crafts cost between Rs. 40 lakh and Rs. 60 lakh, depending on their size. Catamarans too get burnt when repairs are done.
Fisherfolk have asked the Chennai Port Trust, which manages the harbour to ask the Fire Service Department to open a fire station inside the fishing harbour.
“We have also asked for a police outpost inside the harbour. The N4 police station has very few constables and has too much work to be able to handle issues here. Lighting has to be improved inside the harbour too. We also need high mast lamps,” said M. Ranganathan, president, North Chennai Meenavar Iykiya Panchayat Sabai.
On Wednesday Chennai Port Trust Chairman Atulya Misra visited the harbour and discussed several issues pertaining to the fisherfolk.
Ask for fire station and police outpost to be set up inside fishing harbour at the earliest