Sagarmala Port Project is a Noose in the Neck of Coastal Communities, Fisher People Oppose Move

November 21, World Fisheries Day is observed will see a massive rally of fisher people from different parts of the country at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, against the ‘‘Ocean Grabbing’ policies of the Modi regime. National security too was a concern as many of these ports are being privatised and run the risk of being security threats, the forums said

The National Fishworkers’ Forum & National Alliance of People’s Movements will join hands to fight the destructive port & corridor based development model

Bringing into sharp focus, the ambitious –and allegedly ill-thought move of the Modi government to usher in high-cost port infrastructure development, especially of the Sagarmala project in Andhra Pradesh, a two-day national consultation on ‘Sagarmala’, just concluded in Delhi raises questions over the move. More than one lakh fish workers will participate in a series of protest actions against the move. The moot question is, will the media cover these protests?

Fishworkers and Fishing Communities to be Affected
Addressing the critical issues and concerns out of National Perspective Plan under the implementation for Sagarmala and Industrial Corridors along the Indian coastline, the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) leadership asserted that such projects were being approved without any thought going into the effects on the fishing community who are settled all along the coasts. The original Sagarmala plan articulated under former PM Mr. A.B Vajpayee has been modified with large scale land and ocean grabbing, displacing the people and their right to life, livelihood and dignity. Dangerous levels of ecological devastation has also been accelerated which is being sidelined in this massive push for development.
The ill effects of the Enayam port, an upcoming port in Tamil Nadu, were also showcased, especially the largescale displacement of persons from a thickly populated coastal district. The Vizhinjam port, already handed over to the Adani group (ironically even by the Left Front government carrying on a policy put in place by the Congress-led UDF!!), and which is likely to swallow up the entire coastline, is being vigorously opposed by the fishing community in Thiruvananthapuram district. Similarly, the expansion of the Kamraj Ennoore port, in Tamil Nadu, has already been opposed by community and experts alike. The democratic demand for thorough viability studies and that these be made public, as also the consent and involvement of the local community during the planning of such projects, has been high-lighted. The meet demanded an immediate cessation of all construction related activities must be done.
The Sagarmala project is primarily aimed at developing ports, transport through waterways and promote shipping, in other words it is just a port-based development model. However, a port-based development of multiple projects intended at bringing in foreign currency, should be understood differently from coastal development.
Serious concerns are being raised about the environmental effects on the coasts with issues like coastal erosion, coastal accretion as well as severe problems of dredging and the effects on the sea bed due to this. It is a fact that construction of breakwaters is leading to such disturbance in the ocean current that fishworkers are not able to go into the sea to fish. Moreover, the massive increase in ports and coming in of huge projects under Sagarmala is not in coordination with the requirement and the feasibility of having a huge number of ports.
Fishworkers from Kutch, Gujarat highlighted the severe effects of the Adani port and Adani, Tata and OPG thermal power plants in the Mundra area on the traditional small fishermen who have faced detrimental effects on their livelihoods. It was also mentioned that Adani acquired huge amounts of land on the coastline for the Mundra SEZ first, and caused all kinds of environmental violations. The most shocking has been the ease with which over 2500 acres of mangroves were removed and land filling was undertaken by Adani, with impunity. These projects have also brought out severe effects on the marine ecology where up to 25 kms of coastline you can find dead fish because of the massive amounts of toxins being released into the estuaries.
‘Sagarmala’ needs serious national assessment, due to varied level of complexities. The industrial corridors, the economic corridors, smart cities, coastal investment regions like PCPIR and Sagarmala are all a part of the larger plan for industrialization, which will destroy India’s vulnerable coastline.
De-monetization Hits the Fisher People
The leaders also noted that the NDA Government’s demonetisation effort, under the pretext of curtailing black money, is hurting the fishing community across India – other than many other formal and informal production sectors. Without scientifically assessed reasons and a detailed cost-benefit analysis, it is scary that the Central Government has gone ahead with such a scheme, jeopardising the lives of the majority Indians, to catch a minority engaged in black money and illegal transactions.
The NFF and the NAPM will be taking forward their struggles on these issues with further discussions at the NFF General Body in Tuticorin (December 9 and 10, 2016) and the NAPM National Convention in Patna (December 2-4, 2016).
The Campaign Points are

  • The NDA II Government is trying to fool the coastal people by unviable projects
  • Sagarmala will effectively promote real estate projects
  • Joint actions planned by people’s movements in the entire coastal stretch between Gujarat and West Bengal
  • More than One lakh of Fishworkers to participate in the series of actions
  • NFF to hold Parliament Rally onNovember 21, 2016, on World Fisheries Day
  • Coastal Yatra(s0 being planned by affected people from ten coastal states
  • Consultation with communities demanded, to suit legitimate development needs in coastal areas
  • “Privatisation and handing over of ports to companies like Adani will threaten India’s national national security”
  • Fishworkers demand withdrawal of Sagarmala project
  • Government should roll back the ‘Demonetisation’ policy, which has caused immense hardships to the coastal people and is hardly offering any scientific solution to the actual black money and corruption issue

(Issued on behalf of NFF: M. Ilango (Chairperson), Narendra Patil (Gen Secretary) and T. Peter (Secretary) NAPM: Rajendra Ravi (National Convener) and Madhuresh Kumar (National Organiser)
The Sagarmala project is being heavily promoted by business newspapers and publications. The Economic Times reports that “Sagarmala envisages port led development of the country that would include establishing new transshipment port, creating dedicated coastal berths ports for coastal shipping, setting up storage capacities at origin-destination ports to shorten turnaround time and developing adequate ship-repair facilities in the maritime states. 

The government has prepared a Rs 5 lakh crore plan, including private investment, to implement the Sagarmala project. More recently, the same paper stated that, “To give a push to port-led economic development under its ambitious Sagarmala project, the government today approved incorporation of Sagarmala Development Company under the Companies Act with Rs 1,000 crore as initial authorised share capital. 

"The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the incorporation of Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) under the Companies Act, 2013," an official statement said. Government to fast-track green clearances for Sagarmala project, too.



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