Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk

WFD 2022: Inland, Coastal Fisherfolks’ Struggle Amid Hostile Climate

(Feature Image: Over the years in the Panzath village, it has emerged sort of a festival. Residents said the tradition started by their ancestors has helped them keep the water body in order, clean and healthy. Image: Aaquib Gull/ Kashmir Life)

On the occasion of World Fisheries Day (WFD) 2022, this report highlights the ongoing struggle of inland and coastal fishers amid adversarial governments and changing climate. It first tracks some positive developments and then moves on to document important issues concerning the fisher communities in India. The first, second and third part of the WFD 2022 reports covered positive reports on rivers’ fish and fishermen; mass fish deaths in rivers and emerging threats; and mass fish kills in lakes and ponds in the country reported during the past one year. The fifth and last part on the series would highlight issues concerning aquatic bio-diversity in the country.    

National Statutory Audit lays bare numerous breach of India’s coastal regulations An audit has identified dozens of public and private projects that have breached India’s coastal regulations — beach resorts, ports, roads, a racetrack, and even a jail near an Olive Ridley turtle nesting site. The exercise by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has flagged deficiencies in the Union environment ministry’s project approval mechanisms and lapses by state coastal regulatory authorities that threaten efforts to conserve coastal ecosystems.

It has also cited instances of marine pollution — from a poorly functioning sewage treatment plant in Digha that is releasing polluted water into the sea and from the Veraval fishing harbour in Gujarat that is discharging untreated effluents into the sea. Examples of projects that have violated Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules include a jail complex near Bangar in Odisha, within the Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary that has an Olive Ridley turtle nesting site on the beach, resorts in Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), the Vembanad lake region (Kerala), an illegal road in Udupi (Karnataka), and a racetrack in Pattipulam (Tamil Nadu), the CAG said.  (10 Aug. 2022) 

Several projects in coastal regulation zones were approved during 2015-2020 despite inadequacies in environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports, according to a new CAG report. Coastal land up to 500 metre from the High Tide Line (HTL) and a stage of 100m along banks of creeks, lagoons, estuaries, backwater and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations is called CRZ. The government had in 2019 notified CRZ norms under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 to conserve and protect the environment of coastal stretches and marine areas, and ensure livelihood security to the fishing communities and other local communities.

The CAG report on ‘Conservation of Coastal Ecosystems’ said instances were observed where Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC) of the Union Environment Ministry granted clearances to projects, though domain experts were not present during the deliberations.  Also, cases were noted where the members of EAC were less than half of the total strength during the deliberations as there was no fixed quorum for EAC members, said the CAG.

“Projects were approved despite inadequacies in the EIA reports which included non-accreditation of the consultant involved with the preparation of the EIA report, usage of outdated baseline data, non-evaluation of environmental impacts of the project, non-addressal of disasters which the project area was prone to,” the CAG said. Activities forming a part of the mitigation plans like mangrove conservation, replantation, biodiversity conservation plan, rain water harvesting plan were not included in the environment management plan as the same was left to the project proponent to be carried out, the report said. (9 Aug 2022)


Karnataka Beating heat with fish hunting In March-May, events like KERE BETE (hunting in a pond) or matsya bete (fish hunt) are commonly seen in parts of Uttar Kannada, Shivamogga and Havery districts in Karnataka. It is mainly organised in half dry ponds in malnad and Semi Malnad areas of Sirsi, Mundgod, Siddapur, Sorab and Hangal taluks. The practice has been there for several decades, its origin is not known.

– The village fish hunt committee takes charge of a lake in an  auction conducted by the gram panchayat and they then release fishlings in the ponds and allow it  to grow for a year or two. Once the lake has sufficient fish, the function is organised in which entry fee is collected. At appointed day and time with blowing of the whistle, participants including men, women and children rush into the lake with traditional fishing gear KUNI (for men) and mankari (women) made of bamboo. They catch fish and put it in their basket. Whoever catches maximum fish is declared a hero. Typically 300-350 participants are there for each pond. It lasts for 3-4 hours. People who catch a lot of fish typically share some with those who could not catch any.  (23 April 2022)

Tamil Nadu Community bonding over fishing, feast Amazing annual practice in some villages: Every year, the village of Meiappanpatti in Melur taluk hosts the fishing festival that draws people from the neighbouring Sivaganga district. On March 21 2022, at dawn around 2,000 people plunged into the village tank with whatever they could get a hold of — baskets, nets, lines, saris, dhotis. In an hour, they were showing off their catch — all kinds of carp. The seeds are released in these 15 tanks reserved for community fishing in August and since then, the kids of the village feed the vegetable waste to the fish. Everybody gets to catch on this day, and those who cannot catch, get their share from others.  (22 March 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir Panzath’s Yearly Spring Cleansing, Fishing Festival PHOTO ESSAY: For generations, the residents in Panzath, a village in Qazigund Kashmir, have sustained the tradition of taking extreme care of their springs. It has gradually emerged as a local festival that has now attracted people from other villages also.

On a particular day, the villages assemble and get into the Panzath Naag spring and clear it of the weeds. They use the wicker basket to clean the bed of the water body. Some of them are fortunate enough to have a number of fish in the baskets.

The village is known for its springs. Residents said the village name is the skirted form of Pantch Hath (500) springs. They call their major spring Naagbal.

Residents said they have been observing it for generations. It has no proper calendar but the elders said it is being observed to coincide with Rohne Posh, the annual fruit blossom festival. (8 May 2022)

Uttarakhand About Maun fishing fair in Yamuna valley The historic Rajmoun fair was celebrated with great zeal on Sunday (June 26) in Aglad river, a tributary of Yamuna. Local people from Jaunpur block of Tehri district, Jaunsar of Dehradun, Godar-Khatar area of ​​Uttarkashi district, Vikasnagar and Mussoorie, in large number participated in the Rajmaun fair, which was celebrated after a gap of two years due to the Covid period.

Fishing Fair in Aglad river. Dainik Jagran

As per locals the fair is being organized every year in the last week of June since for almost past 157 years. During the Tehri kingdom, forest department was entrusted the responsibility of protecting the Maun Mela. Earlier, such fairs named Ghuranu ka Maun and Manjhmaun were organized at two more places in the upper reaches of Aglad river but these events stopped by the eighties. Now only Rajmaun is organized at the end of the river, which is also known as Bhind’s Maun. After the formation of the state, the people’s representatives have been demanding the government to declare this Rajmoun as a state fair, however there is no progress on the issue so far.  (26 June 2022)


Troubled waters It is peak fishing season in Mumbai. For over two months, nearly 200 artisan fishers of the Worli Koliwada (fishing colony) have been taking out their boats each morning, however, all are not heading out for fishing. From September 20, around 25 motorised and non-motorised boats in rotation set out through the day and night from Cleveland Bunder in Worli, located in the central part of Mumbai, to park their boats around a temporary jetty at the Coastal Road Project (CRP) construction site.

On December 21, despite being warned of penal action by the Worli police, the protesting fisherfolk disrupted the construction of the CRP for the 11th time. Their demand is singular— increase the gap between two pillars that will come at the Worli end of the project. The Coastal Road is a 10.58 km stretch starting from the Marine Drive promenade to the Worli-end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, promising to ease traffic in one of the most congested cities.

The fisherfolk have demanded that the navigation span between the upcoming two pillars to be 200 metres whereas BMC has proposed a span of 60 metres. The Indian Express

This comes at a time when the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) raised a red flag over the fishing industry in the state, last year. In 2019-20, fish landings reported their lowest harvest in 45 years, while reports show a decreasing, year-on-year trend since 2017. According to the CMFRI, red toothed triggerfish (Odonus Niger), a commercially unimportant fish that feeds on other fishes, has registered a significant increase along the state’s coastline. The preliminary observation shows that changes in water currents in the Arabian Sea could be the reason. (27 Dec. 2021)

BMC’s set to unveil CRP The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is set to unveil its ambitious Mumbai Coastal Road project. The Rs 12,750 crore Mumbai CRP’s construction commenced in the metropolis in October 2018. The ambitions project, however, faced stiff opposition from local residents, environmentalists and the fishermen community of Koliwada. Activists raised concerns over the environmental consequences of the project, while the fishermen feared that the project would ravage their livelihoods. Local residents, meanwhile, were concerned about the sea view.

In April 2019, the Bombay High Court stayed the construction work after it received a number of petitions against the project. The BMC then knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court. In May 2019, the apex court gave a green flag to the construction work.  (17 Dec. 2021)  

Deadlock with BMC stalls Mumbai CRP A part of the construction work on the ambitious CRP in Mumbai has been stalled for over three months now, after fisherfolk and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) got locked in a tussle over the proposed distance between pillars.

Around 200 fishermen in the Worli Koliwada area, a traditional fisherfolk colony, are protesting the construction of pillars over the sea near Cleveland Bunder in Worli. They have only one demand — the navigation span between two proposed pillars should be around 200 metres. However, according to the BMC, a span of around 60 metres is enough.  (27 Jan. 2022)

Worli fisherfolk threaten to restart protests A day after the BMC stated that 60 metres gap in the navigation span between the two pillars of the CRP interchange is sufficient, the fishing community in Worli said it is preparing for more protests at the construction site. Between October 2021 and January 2022, fisherfolk from Worli Koliwada prevented the contractor from beginning the construction on the interchange. With machinery lying unused at the site, freight charges, manpower and other overhead expenses, BMC had then estimated that the halting of work had led to a loss of Rs 5 crore per month.

Nitesh Patil of the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavsay Sahakari Society, who led the earlier protest, said he cannot understand why the civic body was not expanding the span between the two pillars. “We will halt construction at the site again as BMC is adamant at not changing the navigation span. We have held multiple meetings in the past year but the only thing the civic body has done is delay addressing our concerns or divert attention to the compensation and insurance claims,” he said.

The CRP was to be completed in four years since it commenced in October 2018. To date, 53% of the CRP work has been completed and BMC said that the same is expected to be ready by December 2023. The BMC is constructing a 10.58-km-long coastal road from Princess Street at Marine Lines to Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link Road for Rs 12,721 crore. For the project, the civic body is reclaiming 111 hectares land from the sea of which 70 hectares will be developed as an open space.  (19 May 2022)

Letter from 51 eminent residents flays BMC’s stand Amid a standoff between the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and fisherfolk from Worli over the Coastal Road interchange, a letter signed by 51 eminent Mumbai residents including a former municipal commissioner and urban planners to CM Uddhav Thackeray and minister and MLA from Worli, Aaditya Thackeray, has criticised BMC’s attempt to construct the interchange and suppress peaceful protest by fisherfolk. “We are worried that a government that claims to be pro-people and pro-environment has allowed this injustice to continue, and has done very little to address the very legitimate demands of the community,” reads the letter.  (03 Jan. 2022)


Ennore power project will affect over 6,800 families Citing a Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) document that contains a warning by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) that the proposed 660 MW Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS) would have an impact on the residents of TNHB’s under-construction slum resettlement houses for over 6,800 families, activists and North Chennai residents asked the government to scrap the project and cancel the public hearing for it scheduled on January 6, 2022.

Activists released a CMDA meeting note dated November 14, 2018, to reclassify TNHB’s 28.68 acres of land from hazardous industries use zone to primary residential zone, in which Tangedco and TNPCB had objected the reclassification citing the upcoming power projects in the vicinity. The note said the TNPCB member-secretary had stated in a letter dated February 12, 2018, that the upcoming power projects in the western side of the land may have an impact on the proposed TNHB residential complex.  (23 Dec. 2021) 

‘Close or shift thermal power plants’ Fisherfolk of 32 hamlets in Ennore on Dec. 30, 2022 called for shutting down or shifting the polluting thermal power stations that spread harmful fly ash in their area for over four decades now. They questioned the rationale behind allowing their area to be polluted by the power stations while generating power for the development of the rest of the State.

“The fly ash is everywhere, in the air we breathe, the water we drink and even on the food we consume. When we dry fish outside, the ash forms a layer on it. When we return home from work, our people are covered with fly ash and even when it rains, the water washes down as a dark slurry due to ash deposited everywhere. Knowingly, we are feeding poison to our children,” said Rajathi of Sivanpadaiveedu while urging the government to provide them with safe drinking water.

The residents were expressing their anguish at a public hearing convened by members of a joint expert committee constituted by the Southern Bench of the NGT to prepare a detailed project report for remediation of fly ash from Ennore and to prepare a report detailing damages caused to the river basin.   (30 Dec. 2021)

Environmental activists urged the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to postpone the public hearing for Tangedco’s 660 MW Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS) expansion project on January 6 in the wake of the increasing number of COVID cases. Durga Moorthy of the Chennai Climate Action Group (CCAG), who have been campaigning against the power project, said that people are scared over the increasing cases and it would impact people participation in the public hearing. “A large section of people, including unvaccinated, elderly, youngsters and children, are keen to attend the hearing to register their opposition but now they are scared for their health,” she said.

Ennore is a case study in climate recklessness and environmental casteism. TNM

Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman said volunteers of the CCAG have been campaigning in Tiruvottiyur, Ernavur, Ennore and Manali for the past one month and mobilised good support against the thermal power project. “Over the last one week, people are expressing fear over attending a crowded public hearing in the wake of increasing COVID cases. The public hearing is being held for the sake of it and anyway they won’t listen to the public view on the project. But the public hearing is a forum provided under the law to express their views. It should be held with the participation of the public. So we are planning to write a letter to the government seeking postponement of the public hearing,” he said.  (03 Jan. 2022)

Nityanand Jayaraman:- With two power plants under construction and two in the pre-licensing stage, the predominantly working class Ennore-Manali industrial area remains a site of structural environmental and social discrimination.  (08 April 2022)

Tamil Nadu NGT orders govt to notify Chennai’s Ennore under wetland mission In its final order in a case filed by Ennore fishers Ravimaran (late) and RL Srinivasan, and fisher activist K Saravanan seeking remediation of ash-choked wetlands, the NGT bench directed the Department of Environment to ensure that a DPR is readied in 9 months as per the comprehensive Terms of Reference (ToR) issued by the Joint Experts Committee in March 2022. “If remediation is done as per the ToRs issued by the expert panel, we are certain that the river will return to life. This will help lift local fishers from poverty, and protect north Chennai from flooding,” said K Saravanan of Save Ennore Creek campaign.

The order directed the Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Forests and Climate Change to study the “unutilized” Ennore wetlands on the basis of the 1996 Coastal Zone Management Plan and protect that area against further development, declare it as Ennore wetlands under the government’s wetland mission and develop a plan for restoration of the fragile Ennore creek ecosystem and Ennore wetland complex. The tribunal has also directed the Chief Secretary to constitute a committee headed by district collector with officials from Greater Chennai Corp, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and Tangedco as members to hold quarterly meetings to hear and address public grievances regarding the State power utility’s functioning in the area. It has tasked the TNPCB to prosecute and penalise Tangedco for its unlicensed operation.  (08 July 2022)

TANGEDCO Fined Rs5 Cr for Constructing Roads Within Ennore Wetlands In a 2016 case filed by Ennore fisher R.L Srinivasan challenging the construction of roads within the Ennore wetlands, the NGT imposed a penalty of Rs. 5 crores on state electricity utility, TANGEDCO. The amount should be used for developing and implementing an integrated restoration plan for the Ennore Creek, Buckingham Canal and Kosasthalaiyar River. Regarding TANGEDCOs illegal and wetland-degrading activities, a committee involving MOEFCC, State Coastal Zone Management Authority, NEERI and IIT-Madras recommended that any further such construction must be subject to a detailed EIA.  (21 July 2022)

Ennore Creek to be protected under Wetland Mission Tamil Nadu Wetland Authority member secretary Deepak Srivastava on Oct. 13 2022 said the Ennore Creek, a natural carrier of floodwater and an important wetland that supports livelihood of fishermen, may soon be declared as a protected wetland under Tamil Nadu Wetland Mission. Speaking after visiting Ennore, Srivastava said the creek and adjacent group of wetlands in Tiruvallur district need to be protected, both in terms of disaster management and water security. Srivastava said he has already asked Tiruvallur collector, chairman of the district wetland authority, to make an inventory of wetlands in the district and submit a report.

About 9,000 fishers from about 8 villages — Kattukuppam, Mugathwarakuppam, Ennorekuppam, Thazhankuppam, Nettukuppam, Sivanpadaiveethi kuppam, Periyakuppam and Chinnakuppam — lost their livelihood after Tangedco dumped debris in some parts of the creek that are considered to be traditional fishing grounds. Srivastava said his first priority would be to restore the livelihood of these 9,000 fishermen by removing the debris and dredging the area. “Currently, the water level is high. The work will be executed in April-May using the funds available under the wetland mission. Later on, I will push for the notification of Ennore Creek under Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2020,” he said. (14 Oct 2022)

Other Struggles of Fishermen

Industrialisation gone wrong in coastal Cuddalore Coastal Cuddalore’s future hangs in the balance. Haldia’s takeover of NOCL suggests that there are no plans to reign in private capital nor slow down industrialisation. It is equally unlikely that the government becomes more judicious in ensuring proper EIAs are undertaken and that CRZ is implemented, given its past record writes Ajit Menon, Arunkumar A.S.  (01 Dec. 2021)

Why fisherfolk are opposed to beach beautification projects Over the years, Marina beach has seen a lot of changes. Clean-up drives and beautification projects make headlines every now and then. Such efforts have been the pet project of successive governments, be it DMK or AIADMK.

“We have set up shops in front of our homes and we have been doing the business here for centuries and so we will not move anywhere else,” says the fisherwomen in Nochikuppam. Pic: Shobana Radhakrishnan/Citizen Matters

The latest in a long line of projects which have been announced in this regard is the Rs 100-crore Chennai Shoreline Re-nourishment and Revitalisation Project, covering the 30-km stretch between the Marina and Kovalam. Every time a project like this makes headlines, fisherfolk from various fishing hamlets along the shoreline are forced to mount a fight against it to protect their lives and livelihoods.  (10 Oct. 2022)

Pulicat fishermen stage protest seeking pay increase, permanent jobs for workers in Kattupalli port.  (31 Jan. 2022)

Gujarat Behind Reports of Fishers’ Demands for Euthanasia In May 2022, 600 Macchiyaras—traditional small-scale Muslim fishers in Porbandar—approached the High Court to seek death through euthanasia alleging discrimination in accessing Gosabara wetlands and sea waters since 2016. The issue seems to go beyond the communal turn it seems to have taken, presenting a myriad of ecological contests and caste-class intersections amongst Porbandar’s small and large-scale fishing communities.  (24 May 2022)

A leader from the local Muslim fishing community has approached the Gujarat High Court seeking permission to undergo euthanasia for himself and 600 members of his people. Allarakha Ismailbhai Thimmar from the Gosabara wetlands in Porbandar filed the petition on May 5 2022, lamenting the fishing community’s deteriorating economic situation. The application, filed on behalf of the Gosabara Muslim Fishermen’s Society, alleged “the government does not provide facilities to people belonging to a particular community.”

Faced with “political persecution,” the petitioners are seeking to end their life, pending several submissions from the local level to the Governor.  The petitioner’s counsel, Dharmesh Gurjar, says the mooring of boats has been banned at Gosabara port since 2016. “Thimmar and his community are being denied their rights despite having licences.”  (07 May 2022)

Vaishnavi Suresh For two decades now, fish have dwindled along Gujarat’s shores. So local fishermen have to go further out, closer and closer to danger: the unmarked, watery border between India and Pakistan.  (04 June 2022)

Karnataka A road for a port cuts through the livelihoods of fisherwomen A 4 km long road under construction on a beach at Kasarkod-Tonka, a coastal village in Uttara Kannada is threatening the livelihood of over 2,000 fisherwomen. The road is part of Honnavar port project and the site of road construction comes under the No Development Zone of India’s coastal regulation norms. It is an unsurveyed land, part of the village coastal commons, and has been used by fishers for generations for drying fish. A petition filed at the NGT contends that the private company misguided authorities while seeking coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance. Fishers are worried about their livelihood and their existence but are determined to keep fighting.  (14 July 2022) Port-development spree ignores coastal communities’ concerns  (13 July 2022) An upcoming port in Karnataka is shrinking space for olive ridley turtles  (15 July 2022)

West Bengal Coastal villagers face threat as land ‘forcibly’ taken away  Fisherfolk allege TMC workers are threatening them to give up their land for the Digha-Mandarmoni Marine Drive in Purba Medinipur district.  (28 Dec. 2021)

Tourism affecting fisherfolks’ livelihoods In New Digha, growing tourism and climate change are forcing residents to find new methods of sustenance.  (20 Aug. 2022)

Kerala Fishers Who Lost Homes to Sea Erosion Kerala coast is facing severe sea erosion and Thiruvananthapuram is one of the major districts affected by it. Many have lost their houses and lives in the repeated climate calamities. In August 2020, 16 fisher families from Thiruvananthapuram’s Kocuthoppu village lost their houses due to flooding off the north coast of Vizhinjam.  (06 Jan. 2022)

Inland fishers worried over disappearance of giant shrimps Rapid formation of sandbars in Vembanad and neighbouring lakes and the virtual disappearance of giant shrimps have forced inland fishers to appeal to the government to call a meeting of the Fisheries Management Council to discuss issues confronting them. Fishers have reiterated their demand that the govt act on its promises to clean up backwaters, remove silt, and create a situation conducive for the smooth movement of water in lakes, said V.M. Aanandan of Enzhupunna-Thuravur Inland Fisheries Development & Welfare Cooperative based at Aroor.

He added that around 7 lakh people, including those engaged in ancillary work, depended on inland fisheries in the backwaters. The lakes provided employment to thousands who took to fishing during the pandemic. “Backwaters have such potential, & we are ignoring it,” he said.  (7 Oct 2022)

Kerala Fisherfolk protest gathers steam on 100th day Marking the 100th day of their anti-port agitation, fisherfolk led by the Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archdiocese massed in huge numbers along the coast under the blazing sun at Vizhinjam and Muthalapozhi on Oct. 27 2022. The message was clear: Until the port construction was abandoned, the agitation will continue. The fisherfolk began protesting against the Vizhinjam port raising seven major demands, including a construction freeze at the Adani port site. In these 100 days, mutual suspicion has grown. Stopping construction work, the primary demand of the striking coastal folk, has been declared non-negotiable by the government.  (27 Oct. 2022)

Protest against mineral sand-mining completes 500 days The indefinite relay satyagraha being staged under the aegis of the Karimanal Ghanana Virudha Ekopana Samiti against the mineral sand-mining at Thottappally completed 500 days on Oct. 22 2022 . On the occasion, members of the samiti staged a protest by blocking mining at the Thottappally fishing harbour. The samiti alleged that indiscriminate mineral sand-mining at the harbour and Thottappally pozhi had been causing serious health risks to the local population. It demanded an immediate halt to all mining activities.

The protest against mineral sand-mining at Thottappally completes 500 days. The Hindu

Local residents have been alleging that the state government is engaged in large-scale mineral sand mining at the pozhi under the guise of flood mitigation in Kuttanad and at the harbour in name of its development. The coastline is prone to severe sea surges and coastal erosion. Residents fear the mining would prove detrimental to the people living along the shorelines from Valiazheekal to Punnapra. The removed sand is transported to Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd and Indian Rare Earths Ltd.  (22 Oct. 2022),  (09 Oct. 2022)

Manipur Fishers’ Union gets stay on construction in Loktak Lake area On 25th Feb 2022, the Court responded to the review applications by  two members of All Loktak Lake Area Fishers Union of Manipur (ALLAFUM) – Smt Oinom Akashini Devi and Smt Khoirom Kiranbala reaffirmed the stay on constructions in or around the Loktak Lake Area and directed the Government to ensure that no development/construction works are initiated in or around the Loktak Lake without the leave of the Court. 

Claiming to promote and develop Loktak lake, the Manipur government broke the law while pushing for eco-tourism and inland waterways mega-projects.  (21 Feb. 2022) Documentary: Losing Loktak, Manipur’s largest freshwater lake  (28 Feb. 2022)

Y Rupachandra, convenor of the Thinungai Fishermen Union, said the ecotourism development plans could deprive the traditional fishing villages of their livelihood. “They want to remove the phumdis and introduce resorts and a golf course. Fishing will be devastated. Maybe some people could get jobs there, but what about the rest,” asked Rupachandra. The unions also said the LDA had ignored the concerns of the fishing villages. The Loktak Development Authority, an autonomous body created to preserve the lake, has remained largely defunct since the BJP government brought in its ecotourism plan. “The LDA has not held a single meeting in more than one year,” activists said.  (23 Feb. 2022)

Some Positive Reports

Maharashtra Four nets and one stellar idea Story by Yusra Husain. How fisherfolks in Versova creek in Mumbai are using fishing nets to remove plastic and other garbage.  (21 Aug. 2022)

Start-up helps fish and shrimp farmers increase productivity A Tamil Nadu-based start-up, Aquaconnect, is assisting several fish and shrimp farmers from across India to increase productivity through their AI and satellite remote sensing technology. It has guided over 60,000 aquaculture farmers in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and is looking to scale up operations in West Bengal, north and the northeast.  (11 June 2022)

Fisherman brought solar electricity to a village M Shaktivel is a YouTuber and a fisherman from Thoothukudi who spent a year installing solar power panels in 15 homes in his village. 

Odisha Kalahandi women develop IoT devices to help fish farmers The prototypes of the products – Dhivara Mitra, Krishi Dhanu and Matsya Bandhu – have been completed and patented. Dhivara Mitra is an integrated solution combining five important components of fish/prawn culture onto a single solar power operated floating device. It can move and cover the entire area of a water body with the help of an IoT enabled smart control sensor system and help in uniform distribution of feed, aeration and maintain uniformity of dissolved oxygen level. The pH measurement scale attached to the device can measure and maintain pH level of the water body proving beneficial for both fish and prawn farmers. While Matsya Bandhu is a fish/prawn feed dispenser, Krishi Dhanu is a solid fertiliser dispenser.  (26 Dec. 2021)

Fish on plate, money in wallet In Mayurbhanj women sustainably cultivate fish that not only brings them money but ensures better nutrition for their family. Women self-help groups in Khunta block are cultivating fish in their village ponds. The United Nations has designated 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture.  (21 Feb. 2022)

Local fishers, villagers help conduct the world’s first fishing cat census in Chilika Lake; 176 fishing cats reported.   (07 June 2022)

Madhya Pradesh Managing water commons through fishing cooperatives.  The experience of the Foundation for Ecological Security in tribal Mandla.  (01 Sept. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Fish farming comes to the rescue of farmers Farmers in Bahraich district who routinely lose crops to either floods or stray cattle are now taking up fish farming and poultry activities to supplement their income. An acre of fish pond can help earn Rs five lakh per annum.  (05 March 2022)

Sarad Rai is a jhora fish farmer in Kalimpong, India.

W Bengal Darjeeling’s cold water carp farming system Farming in flow-through concrete ponds known as jhora, which is practised in the hills, is not only helping locals to get healthy diet of food but has been also supplementing their families’ incomes. (4 May 2022)

Kerala Could aquaponics be the answer to poison-free fish and vegetables? Cherai is India’s first aquaponics village in Kerala where the need for cleaner, chemical free food prompted close to 200 families to set up aquaponics systems.  (11 Sept. 2022)

Jharkhand Abandoned coal mines in Ramgarh now haven for fish farming Local residents in Ramgarh have been creating opportunities for themselves by introducing fish farming in abandoned coal mines of the Central Coal Fields Limited (CCL). People who lost their land for mining projects have come forward to push the initiative after obtaining no objection certificate from the CCL. Officials informed that currently it is being done in four coal pits and is being replicated in other places through the District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT) fund.  Notably, there are several coal mines in CCL project area lying empty for the last several years after coal extraction, which remains filled of water throughout the year making it suitable for fish farming.  (04 April 2022)

Govt Plans, Actions

Centre Need to increase domestic consumption and exports of fish: Fisheries Minister India is the second largest fish producer in the world with a production of 14.16 million tonnes during 2019-20. Jatindra Nath Swain, secretary – fisheries, Department of Fisheries, highlighted that the fisheries segment provides nutritional security to people. He said fish production has grown from around 4 million tonnes in 1991-92. The government is targeting to increase fish production to 22 million tonnes in the next 4-5 years, he added.

– The secretary highlighted that the government has launched a Rs 20,050 crore ‘Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana’ (PMMSY), comprising central share of around Rs 9,400 crore, state share of nearly Rs 5,000 crore and beneficiaries contribution of over Rs 5,000 crore, to be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 in all states/Union Territories.  (21 Jan. 2022)

Karnataka Matsya Sampada offers lucrative fish farming subsidy The state govt has introduced several new schemes in order to encourage pisciculture or fish farming activities. It has been decided to increase fish farming in agricultural pits through the PMMSY. The scheme has several plans like extending subsidy to those who conduct pisciculture, producing different fish breeds and so on. The demand for fish is so high the fishing industry is unable to cater to it. Therefore the government has decided to encourage freshwater pisciculture and is extending grants and subsidies for this activity through the PMMSY.

For the scheduled caste and tribe individuals engaging in this activity, 60 percent subsidy is being provided. The state has decided to set up fingerling production units in the state to avoid dependence on Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Vehicles with freezer facility are available for transporting fish to the markets and arrangements to run them on solar and electricity have also been made, says minister for fisheries and ports, S Angara. A cooperative society of fish farmers will also come up to extend facilities like fingerlings, fish food etc.  (26 Jan. 2022)

Expert committee to explore possibility of setting up fisheries varsity The Karnataka govt has constituted a committee to look into the possibility of upgrading the College of Fisheries into a Fisheries University in Mangaluru. The expert committee is expected to submit the report after analysing the pros and cons of carving the college from Bidar-based Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University (KVAFSU), to set up a separate fisheries university in Mangalore.  (20 Dec. 2021)

61-day fishing ban comes into force As monsoon is the breeding season for fish, govt had banned fishing till July 31 under the Karnataka Coastal Fishing (Regulation) Act, 1986. The ban is to facilitate breeding of fish in sea. According to the Fisheries department, mechanised boats and traditional boats fitted with inboard or outboard engines of 10 HP and above are banned from fishing during the period. The ban was enforced following excessive fishing during monsoon having an adverse impact on fish catch during the fishing season. The traditional fishing boats fitted with less than 10 hp engines are permitted to carry out fishing. Those violating the ban will not be eligible for subsidised diesel for a period of 12 months.  (01 June 2022)

Kerala Vembanad wetland system shrinking drastically: Report The depth of the lake has diminished to an average of 3 metres from 9 metres over the past few decades that also saw a sharp fall in its fish wealth, says a study. The floods of 2018 and 2019 aggravated the situation, and currently all areas, other than major boat routes and ship channels in Kochi, have lost their depths. The drastic fall in the depths may ultimately lead to the death of one of the largest ecosystems in the country, warns the four-year-long study by the Centre for Aquatic Resource Management and Conservation (CARMC) of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos).

“Unscrupulous filling of the wetland also contributed in the lake losing its area. The fish wealth too registered a drastic fall. Around 150 to 200 fish species were identified in the lake in the 1950s and it has declined to below 100 now. Fish species like pearl spot, freshwater prawn, mullet, crab, catfish, anchovy, salmon, silver belly, sole fish, and shellfish in the lake are hit by the accumulation of silt in the bed. The natural process of accumulation of silt inside the paddy polder was stopped after the construction of strong outer bunds,” the report said.  (03 Feb. 2022)

Vembanadu Lake in Kuttanad at Alappuzha. Photo Credit: PTI/The Hindu

Vembanad lake continues to shrink The lake, which is a source of livelihood for farmers of Kuttanad and the fisherfolk community, continues to undergo ecological degradation due to pollution and unauthorised constructions on its banks, with experts calling for “committed efforts” to save its wetland ecosystem. With a gradually shrinking area of over 2,000 sqkms and a length of around 96 km, it is one of the largest lakes in Kerala and the longest in the country and is bound by the districts of Alappuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam.  (11 Sept. 2022)

Maharashtra Govt compensates 288 fishermen  The government has given compensation of Rs 44 lakh to 288 fishermen — for setting free protected marine species which were caught in their nets free – in the past three years. The compensation scheme is a joint effort by the Mangrove Cell and Mangrove Foundation, and the Fisheries Dept of Maharashtra. Monetary compensation up to Rs 25,000 is given to fishermen as they have to cut off their fishing nets in order to release marine species that get accidentally tangled in their fishing nets.  (02 June 2022)

Andhra Pradesh 1 lakh fisherfolk families to get ₹ 10,000 each Over one lakh fisherfolk families will get a financial incentive of ₹ 10,000 each under the YSR Matsyakara Bharosa in May. This money is to help families tide over the situation for 61 days when, as per centre’s orders, they are banned from fishing in the sea from April 15 to June 14 along the entire east coast from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu. This is the breeding season for fish when eggs laid by them hatch and the offspring grow. A grown fish eventually means good income for families that depend on fishing.

AP has nearly 1.24 lakh fishing families living all along its coast. Fisheries authorities, with support from Sagara Mitra, will list out whether or not members of these families have ventured into the sea during the period of ban. No mechanised or motorised boat is permitted to go fishing into the sea during the ban period. Traditional crafts can, however, be taken out by individual fishermen during the period.  (20 April 2022)

Telangana State bags fisheries award Telangana bagged the top award in freshwater fish production. Fish production, which was 2.27 lakh tonnes during 2014-15, increased to 3.37 lakh tonnes. The fish production has increased by about 1.50 lakh tonnes during the last seven years. The govt launched 150 retail mobile fish outlets with an aim to make fresh fish available to consumers. Telangana also became the first State to geo-tag nearly 30,000 water resources.  (21 Nov. 2021)

Bihar Despite there being plenty of water, land and laborers for fish production, people of Bihar eat fish by importing them from states like Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. According to farmers and experts, due to the poor policies of the government and the eyes of the land mafia on the ponds, the fish here are not making a source of income for a large population.  (03 Feb. 2022)

Coastal Regulation Zone issues

Fishermen oppose amendments to CRZ notification The fisherfolk have strongly objected to the draft notification issued by the MoEFCC on Nov 1, 2021 to make amendments into the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification-2019. The ministry had proposed eight amendments to CRZ notification-2019 seeking to delegate powers of giving CRZ clearance to the State Coastal Management Zone Management Authority, exempting statutory CRZ clearance for the exploratory drilling operations, and removal of sand bars from the shoreline, acting on representations given by the state governments and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) channelled through Director General of HydroCarbons (DGH). The National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) had also recommended in favour of these amendments during its 42nd meeting held on March 23, 2021.

National Fishworkers’ Forum’s youth representative Jones Thomas Spartagus said the amendments are intended to dilute the restrictions on oil, gas and hydrocarbon extraction projects in the Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA) and territorial waters that encapsulates mangroves, swamps, lagoons and traditional fishing grounds. Most of the oil reserves and explorations are carried out in territorial waters that extend up to 12 nautical mile from the shoreline, he said. On the amendment delegating powers to the union government for granting CRZ clearance proposed at the CRZ-1 and CRZ-IV areas, Jones contended that the union is taking the rights of the State government as CRZ-1 and CRZ-IV areas fall under the control of state governments. “It is a transgression on state sovereignty”, he pointed out.

Another controversy is the amendment to remove the sandbars from the coast which are formed naturally along the intertidal areas. The fishermen say the sand bars function as eco-barriers that prevent the fishing hamlets from extreme events, besides maintaining the ecological balance. Such an amendment would open floodgates for the illegal sand miners, they said. “Removal of the sand bars lead to rapid coastal erosion and threaten nesting of seashore birds and endangered turtles which are protected under schedules of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972”, said a fisherman from Vembar.  (06 Jan. 2022)

Karnataka CRZ Notification allows manual removal of sand: HC A division bench headed by acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe said this while granting relief to a group of 30 temporary permit holders from Dakshina Kannada. The petitioners submitted that they are traditionally engaged in fisheries and were granted temporary permits for the removal of sand bars accumulated in the river banks within the CRZ in the Dakshina Kannada district. They claimed that a 7 member committee had issued temporary permits to them on May 7, 2022, which is operative till March 4, 2023, excluding four months during the monsoon between June and September 2022. The petitioners jointly challenged the District Sand Monitoring Committee’s order dated May 21, 2022, that suspended their licence as well as the notices issued on May 23, 2022, by the Deputy Director of Mines and Geology.  (10 Sept. 2022)

Stopping sand mining in CRZ can prevent sea erosion: Panel The Karnataka Legislature Assurance Committee, that visited areas affected by sea erosion in Ullal, suggested that it can be stopped, if sand mining is allowed only in non-CRZ areas. Locals affected by sea erosion, told the committee that the authorities have failed in finding a permanent solution to the issue, and that the projects taken up to tackle this issue so far, have failed.

Karnataka Legislature Assurance Committee president B M Farook and members visit areas affected by sea erosion in Ullal. ToI

Farooq said that under an Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded scheme, the government has spent Rs 911 crore to tackle sea erosion. In 2021, reef construction work was carried out, he said. Farooq added that water pollution has resulted in extinction of local fish species. During the visit, the members said that they noticed the contamination of waterbodies like rivers and ponds, and found a foul smell emanating from waterbodies and wells, where oil had mixed with water.  (06 May 2022)


Stop expansion at Vedanthangal sanctuary NGT on May 23 2022 directed Sun Pharma not to proceed with expansion work inside Vedanthangal bird sanctuary till the next hearing of the case on July 12. The company and all other government agencies involved are directed to submit their replies before July 12. The Centre had earlier granted clearance to the company for expanding its active pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturing unit at Rs 202.36 crore.

K R Selvaraj Kumar from a local fishermen’s welfare association filed an appeal with the NGT Southern Zone saying the existing green law didn’t allow environment clearance (EC) for a ‘red’ category industry within 5km of a bird sanctuary. The Expert Appraisal Committee had confirmed that toxic material would be used at the proposed expansion site, but granted the EC after advising Sun Pharma to store such raw material with utmost precaution. “EC cannot be granted on undertaking given by the project proponent particularly when it is storage of toxic and explosive material in a bird sanctuary area,” the NGT had earlier observed.  (24 May 2022)

What ‘Control’ Means in ‘Pollution Control Board’ We are witnessing in Indian environmental governance, where good laws designed to protect the environment and human health are being broken with impunity. Worse still, the watchdog agencies tasked to implement these laws are often found creating an enabling environment for the violators. In a recent judgement of the NGT, in the matter of Meenava Thanthai K.R Selvaraj Kumar, Meenavar Nala Sangam v. Union of India and Others, a bench headed by Justice K. Ramakrishnan made several observations that underscored the crisis of environmental governance in India.

An aerial view of Vedanthangal lake and its birds. Photo: Phoenix bangalore/Wikimedia Commons/The Science Wire

Unfortunately, NGT concluded: “Applying the doctrine of proportionality, instead of directing closure of the unit, we feel that directing them to pay an Environmental Compensation of Rs 10 Cr- an interim compensation of both these amounts will have to be paid by them.” (31 Oct 2022)

Maharashtra NGT asks ED to investigate polluting industries at Tarapur MIDC In an unusual move, the NGT has asked the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to investigate polluting industries located at the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corp’s complex in Tarapur, near Boisar in Palghar district, under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). This follows over 5 years of litigation between local fisherfolk and various industries and state bodies over the discharge of untreated and partially-treated industrial effluents into surrounding creeks and rivers, eventually leading into farms, salt pans and the sea.

The final judgement in the matter (Akhil Bhartiya Mangela Samaj Parishad & Ors. v. MPCB & Ors.) was delivered by a four judge-bench chaired by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel on Jan 21 2022. “In the present case, when environmental norms were not followed, by not operating effluent treatment plant or by discharging partially or totally untreated pollutant… this resulted in the commissioning of scheduled offence and revenue earned by committing such crime is proceeds of crime as defined in PMLA 2002… by showing it as part of business proceeds in accounts amounts to projecting or claiming it as untainted property. The entire activity is covered by Section 3 of PMLA 2002,” the bench noted.  (19 Feb. 2022)

Deep-sea pipeline to carry industrial effluents The deep-sea pipeline which is currently under-construction at Tarapur MIDC, will be operational within two months, said officials. The pipeline is constructed to carry treated industrial effluents from Tarapur complex to 7km away at deep sea of Navapur, Palghar district. At present, an older pipeline is discharging effluents from the industrial complex — which is regarded as India’s most polluted by the Centre’s Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI).

Exacerbated by poor functioning of the CETP and frequent leakages, effluent pollution has severely hindered fishing activities in these creeks. At Murbe village, fishers say they rarely take their boats out to sea. “The nearshore area is so polluted we cannot fish there, and you don’t find fish in the creeks anymore either. Going into the deep sea is very costly. The price of diesel alone is too high. My boat has been parked for four months,” said Eknath Patil, a Murbe fisherman.

The impact of industrial pollution in the area was comprehensively detailed in a Jan 21 2022 judgement of the NGT, which fined 103 industries to the tune of ₹262 crore as environmental compensation, and sought an action plan to remediate public health and the ecology. However, it has been alleged by villagers that despite the recent NGT order, industrial units are continuing to dump untreated or partially treated effluents into the creeks and water bodies. The TEPS official cited above refuted this claim.  (25 Feb. 2022)

Work on Uran Bypass Road stayed by Bombay HC The Bombay High Court has stayed the construction of the proposed 11-metre wide Uran Bypass Road at Uran Koliwada. Considering it would affect the livelihood of fishermen from the village, the HC came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for failing to conduct a proper survey before undertaking the project. A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Gauri Godse, on July 29, stayed the construction while hearing a petition filed by 134 fishermen (kolis) who have been using the site as fish landing and boat maintenance area.  (03 Aug. 2022)

Bhim Singh Rawat (

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