The fisheries department’s move to shut down the infamous Muthalapozhi Harbour has been halted following intense opposition from the fishermen who rely on the harbour for their livelihood. The decision, made in the wake of growing numbers of accidents and fatalities during monsoon season, was abandoned in the high-level meeting chaired by Fisheries Minister Saji Cherian with various departments and representatives of the fishermen community.

The minister and officials agreed to adopt the solution proposed by the fisherfolk instead of going ahead with the closure. To ensure the harbour’s continuous operation and fishermen’s safety, the meeting decided to constitute a committee comprising of fishermen and chaired by the panchayat president and fisheries department deputy director as the convener.

The committee will be responsible to oversee and regulate fishing activities during rough weather conditions to ensure safety of fishermen operating from the harbour.

Sulaiman A, chairman of Muthalapozhi Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Union, said closure of the harbour was not a solution, with around 25,000 people depending on it for their survival. “The government came up with such a suggestion to ensure our safety but its suicide for thousands of fishermen. We expressed our stiff opposition and suggested the formation of a committee,” said Sulaiman. He said that around 27 people have lost their lives at the harbour.

A senior official of the fisheries department said that the meeting was convened to convince the fishermen about the dangers during monsoon. “The harbour is commercially active and the fishermen raised their concerns. They came up with a solution to form a committee to oversee fishing activities during rough weather. The meeting approved the plan and the official order to form the committee will be issued in two days,” said the official.

The Harbour Engineering Department (HED) has come up with a `163-crore plan to improve the safety at Muthalapozhi Harbour. It is expected to be completed in 18 months. “The state government has approved the project and submitted it to the Centre for sanction. Once approved, we will be able to begin the project within three months,” said an official.

The meeting has also decided to provide 24-hour ambulance service at the harbour. “An ambulance will be bought using the MLA fund and stationed at the harbour to ensure speedy transportation when accidents happen,” the official added.