A fishermen forum in West Bengal has opposed the central government’s proposal to set up designated corridors along the west coast for merchant ships in a bid to avoid mid-sea collisions between fishing boats and ships.
The Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF) has submitted memorandums to Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Director General of the Indian Coast Guard, Rajendra Singh, claiming that the move would jeopardise the livelihood of fishermen.
The National Fish Workers Forum (NFF) — the parent organisation of the DMF — has also written to Gadkari in this regard.
The forum said that the National Waterway 1, which runs from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to Haldia in West Bengal, is having an adverse effect on fishermen in the eastern part of the country.
“Director General of Shipping (DGS) is in the process of setting up a traffic corridor for merchant vessels sailing India’s western seafront to prevent mid-sea collisions involving commercial ships and fishing boats. The corridor will start from the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Khambhat (Gulf of Cambay) down through the coast of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and till some distance beyond Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. The proposed corridor is 20 nautical miles (37.04 km) wide and about 15 nautical miles (27.78 km) away from the coastline,” said Debasis Shyamal, secretary of the NFF and vice-president of DMF.
“If implemented, the proposed coastal traffic corridor will confine small-scale fishing communities within 15 nautical miles (27.78 km) from the coast. There will be a prohibited area of about 2,300 km in length and 20 nautical miles (37.04 km) in width. This would amount to an area of about 85,000 sq km of sea waters to be prohibited for fishing. This will endanger their livelihoods. Similarly, the NW-1 is also having an adverse effect on the livelihoods of fishermen in Eastern India,” he added.
Pradip Chatterjee, a senior member of the DMF, said fishing communities are not going to give up their right to fish.
“We demand that the Merchant Shipping Corridor along the Indian coast be stopped and there be no infringement on fishing rights in coastal waters. There should be consultation with fishing communities first to contain the risk of collision between merchant ships and fishing boats,” he added.