Kerala

Muthalapozhy a deathtrap for fishers: Opposition

The Opposition told the Assembly on Thursday that the Adani Group’s failure to prevent silting by periodical dredging had turned the harbour mouth at Muthalapozhy into a deathtrap for traditional seafaring fishers.

Moving an adjournment notice to discuss the issue, Congress legislator M. Vincent said the State government had unabashedly covered up for the Adani Group’s failure in a statement to the Centre. The whitewash had cost the lives of 60 fishers so far, he said.

(The government had contracted the Adani Group to construct the Vizhinjam shipping terminal.)

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said Adani’s breakwater construction had upset the seasonal back-and-forth shifting of silt at Vizhinjam and Muthalapozhy. The company was locked in a dispute with the Harbour Engineering Department over who should regularly desilt the harbour mouth to maintain a safe passage for fishing boats through the seasons.

Mr. Satheesan said silting had drastically reduced the depth of the harbour mouth. The underwater sandbar caused strong conflicting currents and powerful eddies that sucked fishing boats into their vortex. Quoting Fisheries Department figures, Mr. Satheesan said over 60 fishers had died. Many more had suffered debilitating injuries after their boats capsized. Lakhs of rupees worth of fishing equipment and boats were destroyed in the accidents.

However, neither the government nor the harbour contractor had moved a little finger to mitigate the danger. Scores of fisherfolk families had lost their breadwinners. Their survivors had no choice but to put to sea again, knowing their chance of making a safe landfall was thin.

Mr. Satheesan said Kerala singularly lacked a marine rescue system despite a 550-km-long coastline. The police and Fisheries Department rescue boats existed only on paper. They had no crew, marine rescue experts or fuel.

Mr. Satheesan said the government should institute a permanent dredging system to prevent harbour mouths from silting up.

Fisheries Minister Saji Cherian said the Opposition had exaggerated the number of fishing accidents at Muthalapozhy. He said the Adani Group had resumed dredging. The administration would create a safe and deep waterway for boats.

Speaker M. B. Rajesh rejected the adjournment notice.


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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 8:41:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/muthalapozhy-a-deathtrap-for-fishers-opposition/article35747647.ece

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