After initial rounds of discussions and background studies, the Ecological Justice group decided to make a scoping visit in October. We boarded a bus on the 7th and after a long and tiring journey finally reached Kumta on the morning of the 8th. After helping ourselves to some breakfast and coffee, we made our way to the office of Panchabhuta Conservation Foundation, which was hosting us for our first visit. The journey involved another bus and a fairly adventurous walk through narrow walls and paddy fields – not for the faint hearted! We were exhausted by the time we reached, but we had to get to work straight away. Over lunch we discussed with Adarsh at Panchabhuta – he gave us a sense of the nearby villages, local commute and their experiences of working with the community. We then set out to the nearby coastal fishing villages.
They were largely engaged in subsistence and small scale fishing. They explained that they the villagers come in the mornings in their non-mechanised boat and goes around 1km into the sea for the fish. They explained how the whole family was involved in the fishing activity – once the fishermen return with the catch, the entire family collects the catch from the net, cleans it out, and the women take the fish to the market.
We asked them about their opinions on the proposed port at Tadadi – they seemed to have a vague awareness of the proposed port, but they seemed unconcerned about it. For now, they were just happy with their catch.
The next day we headed out to the Aghanashini village and the Tadadi Fishing Port. A bus ride and a ferry ride later, we found ourselves in the Tadadi Fishing Port. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the fishermen loading in their daily catch into vans for export, we managed to interact and have conversations with some of the members of the fishing community.
The fishing port saw fishing done at a bigger scale – mechanized boats landed their fish catch here, which were then auctioned and transported for markets. The better quality fish were meant for export while the lower quality fish was for domestic consumption. The residual catch was used to making fish meal and animal feeds.
We interacted with the members of the Tadadi Fishing Cooperative Society and the fisherwomen collective. The fisherwomen’s collective meets regularly and functions like an SHG, in the sense that they collect funds which are used to give loans to the fisherwomen.
The Tadadi Fishing Cooperative Society has a small office in the premises of the Tadadi Fishing Port. From our interaction with them, we got a sense that there are approximately 3000 registered fishermen and about 30 mechanised boats land their catch at this port and the daily fish catch is documented by the cooperative society. The average amount of fish caught for the past 2-3 years have been on the decline while the number of fishing boats have increased.
Around the bench from the fishing port, the vast estuary was visible. It was beautiful, serene and breathtaking. After lunch, we headed back to Aghanashini village. However, we managed only some short conversations between spells of heavy rains. They mentioned some of the changes they have seen over time. Earlier, they found bivalves in abundance, which was a part of their daily meals. However, for the last couple of years, there were only a few bivalves that landed on their shores.
With this we concluded our scoping visit and retraced our steps back to the city. We were already excited about our next visits to this fascinating place.