Chennai: The release of effluents and hot water into the Ennore creek has led to a drastic reduction in the region’s biodiversity.
The dwindling fish population has hit the livelihood of local fishermen, who find it hard to sell their catch due to the poor quality. This has forced many fishermen to look for employment opportunities in nearby industrial units.
The fishermen, who were promised jobs at the thermal plants and the shipbuilding yards, allege they have been given a raw deal. “Due to the pollution by these industries, several species of fish, which were earlier available abundantly, are no longer found here.
Earlier, we could catch fish in the shallow water but now, we have to go deeper into the sea. The thermal plants promised us jobs but when we approached them, they were ready to pay us only Rs.300-350 per day for 10 hours of work,” said R. Srinivasan, president of Kattukuppam Fishermen’s Cooperative Society.
Thirunavukkarasu from Sivan Padai Veedhi Kuppam, said, “A few years ago, one of the companies said they will recruit around 10,000 fishermen but so far, not a single person has been given a job.” Vennila, a fisherwoman, said she feared for her children’s future.
“Men from the community go fishing at the risk of losing their lives. Because of the pollution, the quality of catch is poor and we can hardly make a living. We work hard to educate our children, because we want them to come up in life. We don’t want the future generation to suffer like us,” she said. Sivakumar, who hails from Nettu Kuppam, reveals that the community is often ostracised. “Nobody has come forward to help our community.
Our forefathers’ livelihood was in these shores. But now, our community has been constantly degraded and viewed as uneducated. We don’t have monetary or employment support, even after these industries have harmed our livelihood.
Despite being educated, we get jobs as gardeners or conservancy workers in these units, which pay us very less. We can’t even get a loan because the banks refuse to listen to us,” he says. Selvam, a 35-year-old fisherman, said, “My forefathers were fishermen and so am I. But I am unsure about my future generation.
The government sets up these industries in the name of development. But for whom is this development? Definitely not for the fishermen! We find it hard to even make Rs. 100 a day. When we ask these companies for a job, they don’t entertain us. Don’t I, being a Tamizhan, have the right to get employed, without a recommendation?”