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FOR THESE FISHER FOLK, FUTURE IS BLEAK POST GAJA

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NAGAPATTINAM: For the traditional fishermen already thinking of changing occupation for want of fisheries and unexpected mid-sea conflicts, the gusty winds of Gaja could not have come at a worse time.

The unfortunate community in the cyclone-hit hamlets now fear the calamitous winds could only aggravate an already hopeless career.

Compared to other fishing hamlets of a class Nagapattinam district, the fishermen in Vedaranyam coast are considered poor both financially and, unless provided with enough compensation, the prospects of their venturing into sea look bleak.

Though the fishermen moved their vessels to safe shores well ahead of cyclone hitting landfall near Vedaranayam, their fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) vessels caught were still blown kilometres away.

Particularly the fishing hamlets between Vizhunthamavadi and Kodiyakkarai of Nagapattinam district sustained severe damage with at least 1,000 FRP boats devastated and more than 100 mechanised vessels damaged.

“We recovered one of our missing boats at a distance of five km from our village. Several 10 horse power engines each valued at Rs 60,000 has been devastated. we have faced in 15 years since the 2004 tsunami,” said T Kalyanasundaram, a fisherman from Vellapallam hamlet.

Apart from blowing away fishing gears, the strong winds have helped marine clay penetrate into the hamlets of Pushpavanam and Vellapallam, making it difficult for the fisher to venture out to sea without cleaning the coast up.

“Already a section of our colleagues in past have abandoned fishing and left for south-east Asian nations to work as labourers. If adequate compensation and support were not given, this migration will increase,” lamented M Murugaiyan, a fisherman from Aarkattuthurai fishing hamlet.

Citing a dip in fisheries and frequent mid-sea conflicts by Sri Lankan navy, dozens of fishermen from Aarkattuthurai have left the hamlets in past 5 years to serve as labours abroad for repaying the debts.

As the livelihood of the fishing community in Akkaraipettai, Nambiyar Nagar and Keechankuppam of Nagapattinam was revived through surplus financial help after the tsunami by governments and NGOs, coastal hamlets bordering cyclone-hit Vedaranyam claimed that similar relief is mandatory to secure their livelihood.

“More than 1,000 FRP boats have been damaged between Kameshwaram and Aarkaattuthurai stretch. Nagapattinam is the worst-hit district when it comes to overall losses incurred in fisheries,” an official source in the district administration said .

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