65 boats picket GMR barge mount in Gurpura river

Company allegedly blocked natural channel with silt

65 boats picket GMR barge mount in Gurpura river

Deputy Commissioner V Ponnuraj trying to convince fishermen at the estuary in Mangalore on Friday. DH photo

After a day long discussion, the matter was finally settled with the company management agreeing to start the dredging works at the mouth of the natural channel right from Friday itself.

Background

The barge mount is being shifted to Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh after the company stopped producing power at Tannirbavi in 2009. The company started shifting works right in December itself and had dredged the mouth of the natural channel at old port area so as to facilitate movement of the barge into the sea. The company dredged only a portion of the channel, just enough to pass their barge and dumped the silt right at the mouth of channel, which obstructed the movement of the boats and ferries of local fishermen. The fishermen had brought the matter to the notice of the company management, who assured the fishermen to clear the silt before they leave.

On Thursday morning, the fishermen met the company officials again and said that the company should take up complete dredging of the channel so that it helps the fishing community as a whole and dump the silt on the other side of the breakwater so that the impact of sea erosion at Kotepura area could be reduced this year and the channel is free for movement of their boats. Much to the dismay of the fishermen, the company officials went ahead to move the barge at 6 am without fulfiling the demands of the fishermen. Raged by this, as many as 65 boats of  the local fishermen picketed the barge in Gurpura river at Kudroli and said that the barge will move from the spot only when the company clears the silt from the mouth of the estuary.

Meeting

During first round of meeting that was convened in the morning, the company offered to deposit a sum of Rs 5 crore as security and asked the fishermen to allow them to take the barge out. The fishermen did not agree to any of the argument of the management and clung on to their only demand that company should dredge the complete channel and clear off the silt. Since the meeting in the morning failed to arrive at any consensus, second round of meeting was held in the afternoon wherein Deputy Commissioner V Ponnuraj made two suggestions - allow the barge to be taken to the mother vessel as requested by the company management and then not give them port and custom clearance till they clear the channel and complete dredging, second collect twice the cost of dredging and confiscate their document. Fishermen waived off these suggestions and said that the company should right away start the dredging work and only then the barge will be allowed to move. They even refused to allow the barge to be taken to the mother vessel and suggested that it should be kept either at old port or near Bharath Ship Yard, two safest points for the barge.

Though GMR Energy Group Chairman (Business) B V N Rao and Director K V B Rao pleaded with the fishermen, they refused to pay any heed.

Fishermen leaders Vasudev Bolur, Umesh T Karkera, Mohan Bengre, Deepak Kanchan, Nithin Kumar, Naveen Manjeshwar, Port Official Mohan Kudri among others were present.

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