The LDF government’s first budget will have a proposal for comprehensive rehabilitation of fisherfolk, Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma has said. She was speaking after inaugurating a seminar organised by Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) here on Friday. “As it is a budget provision, I cannot divulge the details. But the proposal involves keeping a 50-100 metre buffer zone near the sea and no houses will be allowed there, she said. The stance of the LDF government is a departure from the practice hitherto followed by governments of building a sea wall with boulders. She also revealed that the budget in July will announce the first instalment of the special package for fishers affected by the upcoming Vizhinjam International Seaport project. Around 50,000 fishermen in the Poovar-Valiyaveli coastal stretch are likely to get affected by the project. Integrated Coastal Management Plan Mercykutty Amma said that lack of an Integrated Coastal Management Plan (ICMP) has affected the state in seeking exemption in certain provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone Act (CRZ). The Centre is ready to help the state based on the plan, she said. The Minister said that a meeting would be held in capital during July 29-30 involving scientists and other stakeholders to speed up the preparation of ICMP. Exemption in CRZ helps the state chalk out its rehabilitation plan better. She suggested fishers to explore the method followed in Scheduled Caste Department. “In SC Department, the beneficiaries find land and the department gives the amount to the buyer. We can also discuss it, she said. The Minister advised fishermen not to construct houses near the sea wall. “Most of the houses I visited during the sea surge at Muthalapozhi are pucca houses. Constructing houses close to sea wall makes the rehabilitation a continuing process, she said. The Minister promised that 300 families staying in rehabilitation camps in Valiyathura will be shifted in two to six months’ time. On the demand for debt waiver, the Minister said that the government would consider it, but the priority would be to make fishers capable of repaying loans.

2016, The New Indian Express.