Fishermen threaten to block National Waterway III on opening day

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Alappuzha, Oct 16 (UNI) Even as preparations are on to declare the 205 km long National Waterway III (NWIII) in Kerala open on November one, fisheremen unions are threatening to block the way, accusing the authorities of not fulfilling promises made to them.

The NW III, stretching between Kollam and Kottappuram, is a landmark step in water transportation in the country and is expected to substantially reduce the cost of cargo movement in Kerala.

Six districts in the state -- Malappuram, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Kollam -- will be direct beneficiaries of the waterway, which is to be declared open on November one, the anniversay of the Kerala formation day.

However, waves of fresh protest are rising against the waterway, which had got delayed by several years due to opposition by fishermen to the inland waterway system.

The Kollam-Kottapuram waterway was declared as NWIII in 1993 and dredging work began soon after to deepen the water channels in some portions. However, fishermen in the northern part of Alappuzha opposed the dredging as they did not want to relocate their Chinese nets coming in the NWIII route.

They gave up their protest only after being promised adequate compensation and substitute fishing materials. The 'Dheevara Sabha', the 'Oonnivala Thozhilali Union' and 'Oonnivala Owners Society' are now accusing the Inland Water Development Authority and the state government of not fulfilling the promises made to them. The removal of the nets will make hundreds of fishermen jobless, they say.

They have threatened to obstruct the waterway till the authorities fulfil the assurances given to them.

The unions have also voiced apprehensions about possible soil erosion when big barges and cargo vessels pass through the waterway, pointing out that there are no concrete pitches at several places and there is a narrow gap between the waterway and the banks.

They also say that the habitat systems of several species of fish are positioned very close to the banks. Breeding of these fish will be be endangered, they claim.

UNI

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