A battered sea wall and an angry Arabian Sea

By J M John

The future of fishing along Kerala coast is bleak as a case study of Poonthura village in Thiruvananthapuram shows

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Poonthura coast, battered by the Arabian Sea during 2010 rainy season. (Photo: Harris K/ Monsoon)

This report brings to light in detail various aspects of the study village, Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram District in Kerala state in  five sections. The first section describes geographic, demographic, socio-economic, political and cultural situations in Poonthura village, while the second section deals with marine fishing as the major livelihood option for the vast majority of people in the village. This section also makes a comparison of the situation between the past and the present while observing the life and work of the fishermen during the past five decades. Section three discusses about the coping strategies of the people. The fourth section explains the impact of global warming and climate change as seen by the documentation team. The last section, the fifth, lists out and discusses the inferences, conclusions and recommendations for future.

According to our findings, the future of fishing communities along the coastal belt of Kerala is bleak and grim. This is all the more true with Poonthura with its geographical, social, political and ecclesiastical peculiarities. Fishing is no more a viable economic activity and the community does not have many alternative employment opportunities. Lack of land and related issues of housing and sanitation are going to create an unprecedented situation of unhygienic living. Health and hygiene are at risk and there is no immediate solution planned to solve these problems. No effective mobilisation is taking place by any of the agencies including that of the Government. The strength of numbers is not made use for furthering progress and solving the problems of the people. They are still considered as vote banks by different political parties.

In this context we suggest that:

a)       A people’s movement around the theme of global warming, climate change and livelihood challenges needs to be slowly built up and people should take up related issues in the fisheries sector. This movement has a scope to spread to other parts of the state’s coastline and beyond.

b)       Iintensive awareness building campaign, plan adaptation and mitigation strategies and implement them; train and encourage people to put in practice coping methods, link with government for accessing all possible resources  required to protect the community for a better and sustainable life

c)       Any project or and program will need to be implemented with the active participation of the people. Serious preparation and training are required to get people involved in the process. A stake-holders forum of experts, researchers, scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, activists, politicians, church, NGOs, SHGs, youth clubs, etc. need to be involved

d)       A series of climate change education may be initiated as part of the programme.

(Full report)

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(J M John, PhD works with ADHWANA, an NGO based in Thiruvananthapuram)