01 / 1998
The livelihood of fishing communities has been affected by shrimp culture in more ways than one. This is evident from the following cases, reported from the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.
Pathapalem and Thattichettupalem are two fishing villages in this district. Prior to the introduction of shrimp farming, Pathapalem village had 6 drinking water wells, 300 hand pumps, 70 navas (canoes)and 500 acres of land that supported 626 families. Fishers used to fish in the sea for 6 months, in the nearby Buckingham Canal for 2 months and engage in agriculture for 3 to 4 months-earning Rs30-35 per day.
A few years ago, in 1994-95, a Hyderabad based company began shrimp farming on 320 ha of land adjacent to these villages. The unit, which has since closed down due to a rapid decline in productivity, drew water from the sea through a jetty that crossed the Buckingham Canal and the road between the two villages.
The long seawater intake system and the giant pumps hindered access to the sea, preventing fishers from casting their nets, thereby affecting fishing operations. In addition, drinking water wells and hand pumps have all been affected by salinity. Salinisation has also had a negative impact on agricultural operations.
A village similarly affected is Gundayapalem, a small fishing village of around 600 families near Gundalakkamma creek and Buckingham canal. Prior to the rapid expansion of shrimp farming on both sides of the creek, fisherpeople in this village fished, using navas (canoes), in the creek and canal, cultivated local millets for household consumption and raised palm trees.
The consequences of shrimp farming have been severe. The six drinking water sources in the village have become polluted and unpotable, leading to a cholera epidemic in 1995. The government now supplies drinking water through tankers. The creek and canal that the fisherpeople used for fishing is now heavily silted and devoid of marine life. Over 900 palm trees have withered. With less fish to catch, fewer palm trees to tap and no ragi to eat, the very livelihood of the community has been affected in more ways than one.
In village Kurru of the same district, all the drinking water wells have turned saline, the mud walls of the houses are peeling and the flooring is becoming damp and humid.
According to local officials, the quality of drinking water/irrigation sources has declined because of stocking of very large quantities of saline waters in ponds and the drawing of ground water for aquaculture. The ground water has been rendered unfit even for irrigation.
Shrimp culture has directly affected fishing as an economic activity. The take-over of land for constructing ponds and the use of inlet pipes to draw in seawater, have hindered the access of fishers to the sea and have disrupted fishing operations. Moreover, destructive practices used for catching shrimp fry from the wild, to supply aquaculture operations, have affected marine biodiversity. Fish catches have declined as a consequence.
Fishing communities have been affected in other ways. Apart from facing displacement from their coastal lands, they are threatened with salinisation of their water sources, a decline in agricultural productivity, and a decline in the availability of other sources of employment. Not surprising, then, that in many parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, fishing communities have organised to protest the practice and spread of shrimp culture.
PUCL=People's Union for Civil Liberties, Report of the fact finding study on the status and impact ofshrimp aquaculture industry in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Kerala, 1997