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Climate Change effecting fisher folk in coastal Andhra Pradesh

Mr. Arjalla Dasu, 36, District Fishermen’s Youth Welfare Association
Gangavaram, Visakhapatnam district, Andhra Pradesh

In both the coastal villages of Mangamari Peta and Pudimadaka, poor fisher folk are having a tough time battling the unpredictable vagaries of nature as they are losing their homes to the sea and having to travel further and further to catch a dwindling number of fish. According to Arjalla Dasu, “Construction of thermal power plants, pharmaceutical companies, ports, ship breaking units and sand mining activities are causing coastal level erosion and severe marine pollution. As a result of these, sea resources like fishes are missing day by day pressing so many fisher folk communities to sheer distress and insecurity.”

Sea ingress of up to ½ km into the mainland has left a number of families living close to the coast homeless. The sea intrusion has washed away their homes forcing them to migrate to far flung areas like Andaman, Gujarat and Orissa in search of livelihoods. “It is expected that under existing circumstances in coming 5 years estimated 70-80 villages will be displaced from the region,” says Arjalla.

In the past few years the number of dead zones in the sea (i.e. area in the sea where no fish is found), have increased manifold, which has directly affected the income of the fishing community living in the region. 15 years back, they could find fish at a distance of 1km into the sea, but now, they need to venture almost 30km into the sea before they find any fish. The poor fishing communities here use traditional fishing boats fitted with motors powered by diesel for fishing. The fisher folk now have to spend more on purchasing fuel as they need to use the boats for an average of 60km each time for a catch. This has caused the input cost on fishing to go high, which in turn affects the price of fish. The change has also caused 1 in every 3 fisher folk in the region to seasonally migrate to nearby cities.

Apart from this, there is also an increase in the number of cyclones in a given cyclonic period. The unpredictability of the cyclones is causing havoc as the community near the coast, who are most affected by it is totally unprepared to handle the situation and the aftershock. The government has no disaster preparedness plan for the area.

Oxfam started working in the district since 2005. Presently Oxfam is reaching out to 13, 500 families living in 20 villages in Visakhapatnam. Oxfam with District Fishermen’s Youth Welfare (DFYW) has helped rally villagers to join hands and advocate against the destruction of mangroves and black sand mining in the region which causes sea intrusion. They have been successful in shutting down two companies engaged in sand mining. Oxfam India is also helping fisher folk to add to their income by promoting additional activities like, net repair, motor repair, and fish processing. Communities are also trained in community based disaster preparedness activities. “One very successful step is that we have been able to introduce Disaster risk Reduction programs in the school syllabus. That way we are educating the children to combat the hazards of climate change,” says Arjalla in a confident tone.

Another significant initiative taken by Oxfam and DFYW is the promotion of social security schemes like micro-insurance schemes for the fisher folk.

In the end Arjalla says very strongly, “A lot can be done only if the Government understands that the sea is our life and coast is our right. Before promoting further tourism and construction activities the Government should introduce more low cost net making mechanisms for the fisher folk. It is the Government’s duty to ensure our rights and protect our livelihoods.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. arjillidasu permalink
    03/07/2011 7:00 pm

    thank you for your report

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