Kasarkod Tonka tense as local fishermen oppose road work near turtle nesting site

Both sides have filed a case against each other at Honnavar police station.
Last Updated : 06 January 2024, 02:32 IST
Last Updated : 06 January 2024, 02:32 IST

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Tension prevailed at Kasarkod Tonka in Honnavar taluk of Uttara Kannada district on Thursday night after local fishermen and labourers employed by the Honnavar Port Private Limited (HPPL) involved in a skirmish over executing work  on an asphalt road near the turtle nesting site.

Both sides have filed a case against each other at Honnavar police station.

The road is being developed by the Director of Ports and Karnataka Maritime Board to provide better connectivity to the proposed private port in the village. The local fishermen are waging a legal battle against the setting up of the port as they claim that the port and its allied activities would adversely impact the ecologically sensitive Sharavathi estuaries and Tonka Beach.

Backed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Chennai orders and approval from Karnataka State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA), the HPPL has decided to asphalt a 2.1-km Kaccha road that connects the port area with the main road.

Work opposed

While the labourers were conducting a survey, the local fishermen opposed the work being taken up as they have been contending that the road laying could endanger the nesting site of the Olive Ridley sea turtle, a schedule-1 species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

“The ‘goons’ of HPPL came to our houses when the menfolk of our community were out and started threatening us at around 7:30 pm. They asked us to vacate our houses as they come within 50 Mts from the high tide line,” said Rekha Tandel, a resident of Tonka.

Marine Biologist and activist Prakash Mesta said December to April is the nesting period of the Olive Ridley turtles. “Any movement of heavy vehicles and human activities in the night would force the turtles not to visit the beach to lay the eggs, which is why the HPPL officials are trying to execute the road work now,” he said.

HPPL Executive Director Raghavendra Reddy disputed the charges of the local fishermen and said they are executing the work based on the government and court orders.

‘Approval from govt’

“We have received approval from the government. The High Court and the NGT have quashed all the cases that were filed against the port. We have an environment clearance and environment impact assessment report for the project. Only a section of fishermen is opposing the project and
creating hurdles for us,” he said.

Reddy said 50 meters from the hightide line belongs to the Port Authority and the contractor was conducting a survey only in this area when the local fisherwomen started protesting and abusing the employees.

“Given the heavy rains that this region receives, we get only four to five months times to implement the project, which will benefit local people,” he said.

“According to documents provided by the forest department and district administration, the port area is not a biodiversity area. If  setting up of a port can affect its ecology, then how come functioning of fishery harbour, where hundreds of large fishing boats venture sea every day not disturb the turtle nesting site,” he said.

Published 06 January 2024, 02:32 IST

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