A fisherman’s solo cycling expedition along the west coast to conserve ocean, coast

Antony Kurisunkal pedalled through coastal areas of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat. He engaged with fisher communities and apprised coastal populations of their rights and spread awareness about ocean and coastal conservation

Published - June 16, 2024 12:14 am IST - ALAPPUZHA

Antony Kurisunkal during the solo cycling trip.

Antony Kurisunkal during the solo cycling trip. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

On June 1, the penultimate day of his solo cycling trip along India’s west coast, fisherman Antony Kurisunkal joined the over 1,000-day protest against mineral sand mining at Thottappally coast in Alappuzha and observed a day-long satyagraha. There was no “better way” to end the two-month expedition undertaken to apprise coastal populations of their rights and spread awareness about ocean and coastal conservation.

Mr. Antony, 45, began his ‘coastal rights yatra’ from Arthunkal, a coastal village in Alappuzha, on April 3. He pedalled through harbours, coastal villages, and fish landing centres in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa before reaching Narayan Sarovar in Gujarat. He boarded a train to Tirunelveli and commenced the final leg of the cycling expedition from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to Arthunkal by May end. All along the trip, he engaged with fisher communities, gained an understanding of their problems and distributed pamphlets in various languages calling to protect the sea and coastal areas for the survival of fishing communities.

A month before commencing the journey, he bought a new bicycle and rode it every morning and evening to gain fitness. “Before making the trip, the only time I made a long journey pedalling a bicycle was to Alappad in Kollam to declare solidarity with people protesting against sand mining there. Though I had been planning a trip along the west coast of the country for the past few years, I got the push after reading the book Avasanathe Adhithi by V.P. Achan (Fr. V.P. Joseph Valiyaveettil). I pedalled more than 4,500 km, including visits to fish landing centres, and villages among other places, during the 60-day trip,” says Mr. Antony who has been making a living as a fisherman for the past 25 years.

Mr. Antony who holds the post of district secretary of Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (Kerala) says that he learned a lot during the trip. “Most of the coastal areas I visited are polluted and littered with plastics. Tourism has done a lot of damage. While areas are being redefined in the name of development, coastal communities stand stunned unable to resist. There has been a decline in fish catch in many places. It has adversely impacted the living standards of fisherfolk. That said, during the journey, nowhere I saw mineral sand mining like Thottappally,” he says.

He stayed at coastal police stations, houses of National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) members, and fuel stations.

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