Kerala

Suchitwa Sagaram runs out of steam

Suchitwa Sagaram plastic shredding unit at Neendakara in Kollam.  

Suchitwa Sagaram, Kerala’s celebrated clean sea mission that garnered much global attention, has run out of steam due to the lack of funds.

The fishers, who brought back truckloads of plastic waste from the sea after the project's ambitious take off in 2017, say their enthusiasm has fizzled out due to many factors, including government apathy.

Moreover, the women employed at the collection point and the shredding unit complain of delayed wages, an issue they have been facing for sometime now. “It takes some effort to detangle the plastic waste from our nets, wash it and then collect it in the bags. Though the Minister promised an incentive based on the volume of waste we bring back, there has been no follow-up. We are getting very poor catch these days and we are not very keen on saving environment when our own survival is at stake,” says Wilson, fishermen.

Visible dip

Peter Mathias, president, All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, says there is a visible dip in the quantity of plastic each trawler brings back nowadays and it will be difficult to keep the project afloat without government intervention.

“Only trawlers can efficiently sweep the sea floor and scoop up huge amounts of waste while fishing. But with the government introducing an exorbitant raise in the registration, deposit and annual licence fee in the mechanised sector, it has created a lot of resentment among the fishers. We were the ones who conceived the project, named it and volunteered to bring back the waste. In the initial days we used to bring double the quantity and I feel we can still make it a success with government support,” he says.

No collection points

Another challenge faced by the authorities is the management of plastic accumulation at harbours that do not have Suchiwa Sagaram collection points. “Proper collection and transport, especially from harbours such as Azheekkal, is a major challenge and usually it’s done only after repeated appeals,” he adds.

The project had made headlines again when it provided 500 kg plastic granules for the construction of Keralapuram-Kovilmukku road. But the employees attached to the project say they have been struggling due to the erratic pattern in the disbursal of wages.

“The women employed at the Neendakara shredding unit received their wages for five months only a day before Christmas and their salary is still pending. Though we have employed women from fisher families for Suchitwa Sagaram, there is no specific fund allocated for the project,” says an official from Harbour Engineering Department.

No support

Last year, a London-based NGO had visited Neendakara to study the project and extended their support for the initiative.

“We were told that the people from the NGO had offered to take care of our salaries and we should wait for that. But there has been no change in our condition even after several months,” says an employee.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 7:22:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/suchitwa-sagaram-runs-out-of-steam/article30452603.ece

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