Development project threatens the livelihood of port village in Karnataka

A fact-finding report reveals that the construction of a port in Kasarkod poses dire threats to the livelihoods of local residents and the ecosystem.

The proposal for the construction of a four-kilometre-long road on the beach at Kasarkod-Tonka, which is a coastal village in Uttara Kannada, poses a threat to the livelihoods of more than 2,000 fisherwomen. Over the years, local fishermen have been strongly opposing the port development, arguing that it will not only put their livelihoods in danger but also affect the delicate beach ecosystem.

A fact-finding team, made up of social activists, journalists, and a lawyer, investigated Honnavar taluk in March, 2023 examining the repression faced by environmental defenders, local villagers, and fisher folk who have been opposing the port project that poses a threat to their community and the fragile coastal ecology. The report, titled, A Post on a Sandpit, stated that this planned road is a part of the Honnavar private port project by Honnavar Port Private Limited (HPPL) and even encroaches upon the No Development Zone as per India’s coastal regulation norms. It is reportedly set to occupy land in and around five fishing villages namely Kasarkod, Tonka 1, Tonka 2, Pavinkurva, Mallukurva, and Honnavar rural. The cost it incurs is huge as the site of construction belongs to the village coastal commons and has been used by fishers for generations.

Locals and labourers have been noted to have clashed over the issue, as recently as January 31st, after which 18 fishermen were arrested by the police. As per a report by the Deccan Herald, locals have even reported ‘goons’ coming to their houses and issuing threats to the women when the men were at work.

According to the Deccan Herald, in January 2024, the HPPL Executive Director Raghavendra Reddy has said his company will be compelled to go for a huge compensation amount from the government if the project fails to take place.

The Honnavar Port development first began with a lease agreement with the Director of Ports and M/s. North Canara Sea Ports (GVPREL), a private entity in April 2010. Over subsequent years, various approvals were granted, including CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) clearance in May 2012 and environmental clearance in September 2012, with extensions granted until 2023. In 2018, the sheds for dried fish were cleared for development at the port. This land amounted to over 44 hectares. Protestors filed a writ petition in February 2021, leading to an interim order in November 2021 regarding turtle nesting sites. However, protests continued and a petition was filed in the Supreme Court in 2022 as well as an original application was filed in June 2022 with the National Green Tribunal challenging the construction of a road to the port site.

Karnataka being the third largest fishing state in the country sees a large number of its residents depending on the sea for their livelihood. Furthermore, according to the report, around 50,000 to 60,000 migrants come to the place to earn their livelihoods in various activities related to fishing and the fish trade in this region. This wave of migrants includes fishermen, women vendors, loaders, truck drivers, migrant labourers, entrepreneurs, and boat operators. The report highlights how the fish trade is predominantly driven by women. Furthermore, the fragile ecosystem of land that is now under jeopardy holds the Tonka beach which is protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and is also famous for hosting the famous Olive Ridley turtles. 


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