With an aim to help marginalised and poor fishermen in the state get rid of deprivation, a national platform comprising of inland fish workers has been formed for the first time by the Centre.
The main purpose behind setting up the platform by the Centre is to fight for the interest of small scale fish workers throughout the country, meet the demands of the fishing community and protect their livelihood and the water bodies.
The National Policy on Inland Fisheries will mainly focus on the assessment of the potentialities for inland fisheries and a road map for utilisation of the potentialities.
Guidelines will be issued for the rights and entitlements of the small fishing and fish farmer communities, and to protect, augment and sustainably use the fish resources in all inland water bodies. Guidelines will also be chalked out for protection of water bodies and their catchment areas, and for recognition and incorporation of fisheries in all development planning that affect water bodies and watershed management.
Efforts will be made to make both the Centre and the state government sufficiently sensitised to the need of a National Policy on Inland Fisheries and also to ensure that the concerns mentioned in it. There have earlier been many attempts to organise the fishing communities, but they remained unsuccessful.
A national level meeting was conducted in West Midnapore recently and an advisory committee has been appointed to prepare a road map on the areas that need the attention of the Centre and state government and how to develop the inland fisheries, in which around 20 million fishing communities are involved.
Fish workers’ representatives from seven states participated in a programme in the state and took a pledge to jointly fight to put on end to the deprivation of small fishing communities and destruction of the water bodies. DISHA, a city-based environmental organisation, and Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF) organised the programme.
The forum will take up various issues and problems of the fishing communities. They would also make the Central and state bodies aware on how ponds are being encroached upon and polluted. In some cases, it has been found that various lakes have shrunk.
The National Platform of Small Scale Fish Workers will address all the issues pertaining to small scale fishermen which have been unaddressed for a long time. The national platform has vowed to fight for the demands of the fishing communities and protect the interests of the fisher folk.
Rivers and canals, reservoirs, ponds and tanks, oxbow lakes, wetlands, backwaters and estuaries yield 6.14 million tonnes of fish, which is more than 64 per cent of the total fish production in the country. The sector sustains about four million fish workers and a total population of around two crore. Yet, the potential of inland fishery resources is far from properly utilised.
Less than 10 per cent of the country’s natural potential is used for fresh water aquaculture, while for brackish water aquaculture the area under cultivation is just above 13 per cent of the potential area available. In the case of floodplain wetlands, the present fish production of around 50,000 tonnes can be increased by six times to 300,000 tonnes; whereas in the case of reservoirs, the present yield of 93,000 tonnes can be enhanced by more than ten times to 9,83,000 tonnes.
Such huge resources are under severe stress. Rivers are being poisoned with heavy pollution load and diversion of water from rivers is harming their ecological flow.
The members who joined the forum said that poor watershed management in catchment areas is cutting down the sources of water of rivers, lakes and wetlands in various states. Natural water drainage is obstructed by the construction of roads, railway tracks. Usage of chemicals in agriculture is destroying the fish resources of wetlands and paddy fields. The first victims are the small fishermen and fish farmers, whose livelihood is inseparably linked with the quality of the water bodies.