Ch. R.S Sarma

For the past few weeks, Gangavaram minor port, under construction by a private consortium in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, has become the centre of media attention, what with local fisherman agitating for a fishing jetty near Gangavaram village and a comprehensive rehabilitation package.

Little progress

The efforts by the State Government to resolve the row over the rehabilitation of the affected fishermen have not made much headway. The fishermen are threatening to intensify the agitation again and stall the port work, if the Government does not resolve the row to their satisfaction soon.

Two fishing villages are affected by the construction of the port Gangavaram, the main village, and Dibbapalem, a hamlet nearby. The latter would have to be relocated entirely and a package was prepared for the people of the village. A tripartite agreement was signed last year. But as regards the main village, Gangavaram, the fishermen will not lose their houses, but only the access to the sea.

``They are not directly displaced by the project, but they are affected by it, as their livelihood is jeopardised. Therefore, their demand for a fishing jetty near the village is justified and it can be incorporated into the port project,'' opines Prof R. V. Rama Rao, retired principal of the Andhra University College of Engineering and an expert on designing fishing harbours.

Dilatory tactic

Several others have expressed the same opinion and urged the Government to concede the demand for the construction of a jetty near Nallamarammapatalu. But the Government seems reluctant to do so. After several rounds of discussions, the Government has offered to construct a jetty 600 metres away from where the fishermen want it and has also given the fishermen two other options. But local politicians and representatives of the fishermen term this a dilatory tactic as the options, in their view, are not workable.

Apart from the location of the fishing jetty, which has become the most contentious issue, there is also a dispute over the number of fishermen in Gangavaram village who will be affected. The number ranges from a thousand to 3,500-3,600. The Government has agreed to conduct a fresh survey to identify the fishermen.

In spite of these hiccups, according to Mr D. V. S Raju, Chairman and Managing Director of Gangavaram Port Limited, the project will become operational by end-2007. "It will be a most modern, mechanised, next generation port,'' he said. There is, of course, no disputing the desirability of having such a port, but must it be on the ruins of fishing villages?

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 17, 2006)
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