February 23, 2021 2:20:13 am
FISHERMEN IN Porbandar observed a bandh on Monday, forcing the suspension of activities at one of the biggest fishing harbours of the state, in protest of the government’s plan to develop phase-II of Porbandar fishing harbour at Kuchhadi, 12 kilometres away from the existing harbour.
However, Fisheries Minister Jawahar Chavda said that the government had already dropped the proposal of siting the phase-II at Kuchhadi and that the fishermen community would be informed about it in due course.
Those involved in the unloading of fish from fishing boats, its auction and trading, retailing in local fish markets as well as employees at fish processing factories joined the bandh call given by the Shree Porbandar Samast Kharva Gnati (SPSKG), an organisation of the Porbandar fishermen community. Ice-factories, ice-crusher units and petrol pumps serving the fisheries industries of Porbandar also remained shut during the day, fishermen leaders claimed.
Ashwin Jungi, vice president of SPGKS, said the community is opposed to the government’s plans for developing phase-II of Porbandar fishing harbour at Kuchhadi. “Porbandar is the safest harbour of the state in times of cyclones and other extreme weather events… Kuchhadi front faces the open sea and our boats will have no protection in such events. It is 12 kilometres away from Porbandar and there is no infrastructure for handling, trading and processing of fish,” Jungi told The Indian Express.
He claimed that there is scope of expansion of the existing Porbandar fishing harbour comprising Lakadi Bandar and Subhashnagar. “We do not want the Rs 400 crore phase-II harbour at Kuchhadi when there is feasibility of expanding the existing harbour… Expansion is possible here even without uprooting mangroves and merely dredging channels surrounding mangroves in the existing harbour,” Jungi added.
Around 3,000 fishing trawlers and around 2,500 smaller fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats, locally called pilanas, operate from the Porbandar fishing harbour. Due to its comparatively narrower mouth at Asmavati Ghat, it is considered one of the safest harbours in the state. With an aim to decongest the existing harbour, the government was planning to develop phase-II.
The 1.15 lakh-strong fishermen community in Porbandar is considered politically influential. Senior Congress leader and former Porbandar MLA Arjun Modhwadia extended his support to the fishermen’s protests and tweeted, “I extend my support to call for ‘Vyavsay bandh’ given in protest of deciding the location of phase-II of fishing harbour without taking fishermen-Kharva community in confidence. It is high time the BJP, which has done nothing for fishermen community in the past 25 years, stopped playing political games with the fisherman every election.”
However, Fisheries Minister Jawahar Chavda said the protest was uncalled for.
“There was a proposal to develop phase-II at Kuchhadi at the cost of Rs 395 crore, but it has been dropped. We will accept the demand of the fishermen community. We are now planning to use the backwaters of the existing port and process is on for getting requisite clearances. Kuchhadi was an old proposal which has been dropped, but apparently fishermen do not know about it,” Chavda said.
The minister added while simply dredging channels crisscrossing the mangroves in the existing harbour may not be the solution, he was “confident that the issue will be resolved.”
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