"Even if the Centre decides today, it will take a minimum five years to dock the first vessel at the port. By then, Vizhinjam Port would be fully developed as a transshipment hub on the International sea route. Under such circumstances, the port project would become economically unviable."
Port Wings News Network:
The proposed Major Port at Colachel (by the Union government) is not economically viable because of lack of industrial activity in the hinterland and due to Vizhinjam Port, being built hardly 50 kms away from Colachel, Mr S A Mahesh, Founder of All India Traditional Fishermen Association and a vocal voice for fishermen in the region.
Speaking to Port Wings after repeated reports on mainstream media that Colachel is soon going to become a Major Port, Mr Mahesh said, “As of now, the Colachel Port is under the administrative control of the Tamil Nadu Government and the state government is well on course to develop it as a modern fishing harbor.”
Q. Tell us about the background of Colachel?
S A Mahesh: Colachel is a second grade Municipal town situated on the west coast of Kanyakumari District. People of Colachel do a variety of jobs including fishing with catamarans, deep sea fishing with mechanized boats, exporting fish, coconut fibre production, fibre works, coir making and palm fibre works. Colachel Harbour on the Malabar coast, 20 km North-West of Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of peninsular India, serves as a base for thousands of fishermen living along the coast of Colachel.
Q. What is the current status of the Colachel Harbour and how many fishing boats and fishermen are dependent on the port for livelihood?
Mahesh: Based on local fishermen’s request, the Tamil Nadu government is developing Colachel as modern state-of-the-art fishing harbor. More than 500 mechanised boats and about 1000 fibre fishing boats are operating out of Colachel Fishing Harbour. Besides, thousands of families are dependent on the harbour for their livelihood.
Q. After strong objection from local community and fishermen in 2008, proposal for developing Colachel Port as container hub dropped. What is your stand now?
Mahesh: As a Son of the Soil, my stand is as same as in 2008. We don’t subscribe to the false projection that such developments bring economic prosperity to the people here. Our experience from the previous such projects, be it Chennai or Karaikal, all such promises proved total humbug. It is like sacrificing thousands of fishermen families for a few wealthy people, who will draw benefits out of those port projects.
Q. If suppose the state government or Centre comes out with port projects despite your opposition, what would the local community's stand on the issue?
Mahesh: Our Stand will not differ at any point of time. Since the State Government, which has the control over the port, is developing it as a modern fishing harbour, there will be fewer options for them to convert it into Centre-managed Major Port in near future. While the Centre can persuade the State govt and eventually convince them for the Port, there are several practical difficulties in notifying the fishing harbour as Major Port.
Q. Centre pitching for the international standard port at Colachel mainly due to its proximity to international sea route and natural depth. Are they right in pitching for it?
Mahesh: In our view, Central Government should focus on the development of India than independent states. Vizhinjam Port, which is taking wings slowly, is located just 50 km away from the proposed Colachel Major Port. Even if the Centre decides today, it will take a minimum five years to dock the first vessel at the port. By then, Vizhinjam Port would be fully developed as a transshipment hub on the International sea route. Under such circumstances, the port project would become economically unviable.