Sebastiao Anthony Rodrigues
Doctoral candidate at Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS), Pilani – Goa Campus, Zuarinagar, Goa
This paper attempts to discuss and critically reflect on the myriad of issues thrown up by the video documentary The Sea of Change: Traditional Fish workers’ perception of Climate Change. The crisis emerging from the Global issue of Climate is affecting coastal areas of India. Melting of Glaciers of Antarctica led to ongoing rise of Sea Level. This gradual rise has affected coastal people specially the traditional fisher people in most direct manner. The video documentary has attempted to locate this alarming situation in the complex situation of fisher people already in the vulnerable position due to various prevailing existing factors like industrial fishing, sand mining, industrial pollution etc. The film has been termed as ‘dusty foot film’ by its producers ‘International Collective in Support of Fishworkers’. The film covers three important locations where the focus is located: Andhra Coast, Pondicherry Coast on the Eastern shoreline of India and Mumbai Coast on the Western shoreline. The film interspersed expert interviews with the fisher people in these three locations. While experts are given their due recognition of identity in the form of names and designations the Fishworkers are denied the same except on one case of ‘Simon’ from Mumbai coast. Is this ethical way of supporting the traditional Fishworkers? The film further arrives at the conclusion that even though the Climate Change is destined to negatively affect traditional fisher people they are completely out of State policy framework to put in place mechanism to tackle the same. This is the reason perceptions of climate change are sort for and presented. Paper presents pointers from Goa Coast with sporadic contextualization. This is done in order to dig out the relevance of this film for the traditional fishermen in Goa and also to further increase support base to traditional fisher people in India.
Key words: Traditional Fishing, Climate Change, Coastal Conflicts
International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) has come out with intellectual intervention in defense of Traditional Fishworkers. This words ‘Fish workers’ has been used inter-chargeable manner with the words ‘Fisher People’. In this paper the two words are used with no change in meaning. The film is titled as ‘The Sea of Change: Traditional Fish workers’ perception of Climate Change’ and of 26 minutes and 30 seconds duration. The film is directed by Rita Banerji. The film also has co-director Kiran Mittal who also composed script of this film. The film is curiously described as ‘A dusty Foot Film’ and ICSF hold Copyright. The film is produced in 2015 and is meant to increase the support base to the traditional fisher people. Pooja Iyengar is the Editor of this Film. The film has sourced its research resources from various agencies such as Climate Change and Fisheries (ICSF), the Challenged Coast of India (PondyCAN), Marine Fish Landings in India 2013 (CMFRI), Moving Home (Nagraj Adve) Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (India) and World Ocean Review. So the film is sufficiently grounded in research.
The film also has narration of various fisher people attached to the number of Organizations. The Organizations listed in this regard includes Fishing Communities and Fishworkers Organisations of Kakinada, Shuddhawati and Mumbai. In Kakinada the Organization is Integrated Coastal Management. Other Organizations includes Maharashtra Macchimar Kruti Samiti (MMKS), Satpaty Maccimar Vividh Karyakari Sahhakari Society, The Amala Fishworkers’ Karyalaya Sahakari Society. In addition the films also have inputs from Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).
The Poetic Approach
Though poetry in nature is rarely captured in the film it still welcomes the viewers:
Alone…I pray to nature
Alone…I may not survive (Allenika)
The words are poetry in the beginning and the scenes in the middle are tumults to the core though no poet is quoted to capture those scenes as camera was more than a Poet. The approach is significant for it locates someone alone. Perhaps the fisherman alone, perhaps fishing community alone; and alone prayer is offered to nature. Even before nature could answer prayer there is already revelation: Alone…I may not survive. So that sets the approach of the film into pace: the battle for survival. Living is far off. The fight is from the people on the fringes of the Indian Coast; from the communities into fishing for many generations tossed around politically just like the waves on the shores toss up with added power of Sea level rise. The film has made attempt to capture these tossing ups of the communities of traditional fisher people with probe of a camera soliciting their views. The process is bound to have some humanizing effect as fisher people are presented in the first person non-manipulative narrations.
The Mapped Approach
Film though described as dusty is pretty heavily loaded with intellectual rigor. For the reasons of visual presentations Map of Indian Peninsula is used for the purpose of depicting Indian Coastline with inscribed description on it. Map point to the Arabian Sea to the West where Goa too is located, Indian Ocean to the South and Bay of Bengal to the East. Climate Change impact is felt in all three directions. The films narrates that 30% of India’s population is living on the coast. There is village on the average every 2 kms. India has 8,118 kms shoreline and it is one of the most closely populated regions of the World. The coastal waters support almost 30% of the India’s population through fishing. This coastline of India is home to 4 million marine fisher folks and they have their livelihoods in Sea. The film also claims that India is second largest fishing nation of the world with annual turnover of 3.78 million tons; in this Indian Traditional Fishermen contribute significantly. Film leave for the viewers enough teasers to probe as to which is the largest fishing nation in the world and how far ahead of India in its annual turnover and who is lagging behind India in fishing turnover in economic sense. Film narrates that fishing provides direct employment to large and self-sustaining community. Even though narration is fairly rosy up to this point it confronts sudden rough weather and the power of storms is reflected in words “reality presents contradictory image: hash and unfair at times.”
The Stormy Approach
The harshness is not new to fisher people. Storms are not new to Fish workers. Film penetrates to the rough times with an arrow of words “traditional fishermen have always struggled against the natural and man-made threats.” Now however there is a new threat and the arrow of words slows down to diagnose, “the question: How far Global Climate Change is going to affect them? How far these areas will be able to retain residential and economic value of the coast in the years to come?” these questions are posed in a manner of anxiety and rightly so. Such a great threat looming all over and very little understanding of the same with fishing communities could prove catastrophic. These are right questions to pose. Answers are sought with the coastal fishing communities. Film narrates that traditional fishing communities have traditional knowledge of the sea fine tuned over centuries can provide key links to coastal land forms and dynamics of climate change. Film completes this triple approach route – Poetic Approach, Mapped Approach and The stormy Approach just in the beginning 2 minutes and 23 seconds before the title of the film ‘The Sea of Change: Traditional Fishworkers’ perception of Climate Change’ appears.
With Smiles from Andhra Coast
The film then begins actual traverses on the Indian Coast beginning from Andhra Pradesh facing Bay of Bengal. The scene begins with a smiling female fish worker smiling to the camera from her sit in three wheeler yellow coloured auto rickshaw with word in Red ‘JESUS’ picking up pace on the road. As the rickshaw comes closer to the camera the smiling face of this nameless woman is complimented by waving of hands as if to transmit warm vibrations in spite of looming Global Climate Crisis. It presented the picture of the beach that resembles so much to the Morjim beach two decades ago when tourism was not prevalent there in North Goa. Actually we are told in the film it is Kakinada beach in Andhra Pradesh. And the story of Andhra Pradesh Coast begins like rain drops of the first shower of the summer: Andhra Pradesh has 900 kilometers of Coastline. It has 8,70,000 fishers in traditional fishing communities. Camera then moves on the edge of the Kakinada Beach and provokes interactions with the coastal communities and interviewing them on any change they might have noticed over the period of time.
Driving along retired stoned wall on a stretch of beach conversation is picked up with a driver of the vehicle without disclosing his name and identity. The man at the wheel explains that the road is remade three times because Sea kept coming in slowly. Fishing boats were captured by camera as being parked on the roadside just like cars. Then camera is out on the beach amongst the fisher people and the interactions to solicit their perception on Climate Change begins with English subtitles to those who are not able to follow the language of fisher people.
The Climate Crisis
Climate Change is more palatable pill to swallow in a wrapped two words. The explorations from this film have left hardly any doubt that what we are actually confronting is the Climate Crisis if not Climate Warfare. Fisher People of Andhra Coast have been quoted fairly exhaustively in the film. “We have been here for 50 years and the Sea has been eroding the Coast. There were beaches here, we would use nets. Fish landing was in large quantities, beaches were fish drying areas. When we were small, the sea used to be way ahead.” What this fisherman wants to convey from his memory is self explanatory. Now female fish worker -without name on screen speaks up “No, I haven’t seen any changes; just the sea has quietly came closer and closer. Earlier the sea was 20 km away, now it is at 2 km. earlier there were only 4 storms in a year, now a days, we get about 10 storms in a year.” Then another fisherman expresses “Our catch was much bigger 10-20 years ago, now the catch is very less.” The ramifications of the Climate Crisis are captured in these first person narrations.
The film commentary continues with a back voice. “Coast is an interface between the Land, Ocean and Atmosphere, and is shaped as much by the natural process as human influences. Nearly 40% of India’s coastline consists of vital stretches of sandy beaches. They are pertaining to the life of traditional fish workers. They are secure extension of village where Fish workers land, lower their fish, trade and dry the fish and mend its nets. For livelihood support beaches are central to the life of fishermen in social cultural context. For the fish worker life without beach is not imaginable.” With these interesting clues films moves ahead and gets two smiling girls with basket full of fish mounted on their heads walk by.
And now comes the turn of an expert to intersperse in the discussion. The first one is Satish Shenoy, INOIS, Hyderabad. He is quoted “Now because of monsoon there is some erosion there. And now erosion has come little inside. We make hue and cry dump some stones there, and those stones are preventing the beach to come back. And it becomes the area of permanent erosion. So it adds to the vulnerability due to anthropogenic intervention.” After the expert comments there is blackout on the screen. The crisis is symbolically depicted well. Solution turned into a problem. One is reminded of call of the fisher people of khareawaddo, Vasco to put up break water and even been agreed and promised by local MLA Milind Naik. One may ask whether this is going to be additional anthropogenic intervention further pushing fishing communities towards vulnerability due to wrong demands.
Screen returns and we find ourselves watching another beach in Andhra Pradesh: Uppada. We are given insights into comparative history: This is one of the first villages to experience severe shoreline degradation. Then immediately a picture of stoned beach confronts our eyes. One is left to wonder as what is the crime committed by this Uppada beach for it getting stoned. We are led to further deeper intimate reality of the sagacity of this beach: formerly some 30 years back, it had a wide beach of up to one and half kilometer. This village - we are informed via narration – is for beach landing operations; today we are not seeing traces of sand here. During last ten years, this beach is completely eroded. Half the village is lost and half the village relocated somewhere.
Both the villages – Kakinada and Uppada certain common observations were made by the villagers. Narration records “It is noticed by Fishworkers of Kakinada and Uppada that there were destruction in physical and biological environment of shoreline. Tracts of beaches are all inundated by the Sea.” This is the reason the film is titled as Sea of Change. Cultural and Spiritual life of the communities is often based on physical and biological environment even though it has not been the subject focus of this film but there is pointer in the film in this direction that can be detected by careful listening ear.
Sea Level Rise projections
Next film introduces an expert to the viewers. He is E. Vivekananda, a retired Principal Scientist, CMPR Chennai. Perhaps it is assumed by the Film that every one viewing the film is familiar with abbreviation CMRI or the team that made this film believes that it is better to conceal the full abbreviation of CMRI. Nowhere in the film is it explained as to what these four alphabets stand for. Vivekananda speaks “We have the clear map of Sea level rise. One Millimeter Sea level rise every year is trivial matter for public but it is very serious. Because one millimeter rise in Sea level will flood at least 10 or 15 kilometer area near the coastline. The cyclones have also pushed these communities into internal areas.” ‘We’ of Vivekananda statement refers to the scientists and not the affected public. And this is very serious as he admits. And he has clear map of the oncoming climate change and looking at the visual of the maps on his computer screen as captured in the film looks that the rainbow lines of coastal disruption are already marked out and those people marked out are not informed about it. This approach clearly transforms the view of Climate Change into Climate Warfare. The arrogance of scientific community is so clearly decipherable from Vivekananda statement here. There is a silver lining here too and that is the films has recorded his statements and circulating amongst wide range of people so that Scientific community can be held accountable to share the projections from their board rooms rather rapidly with public and Public Organizations seriously looking at Climate Crisis issues. Two issues are visible from his statement that we need to take note here: Sea level rise leading to flooding of the land and the cyclones pushing communities into interior areas.
Film at this juncture temporarily departs from the experts and allows village people speak. No name of any of the villagers is mentioned only faces and the voices are made visible and audible. There is a sharp contrast in the way film has gone about presenting experts with full honor and respect by disclosing their complete name, surname and designation. Villagers are not presented in this manner. They are stripped off their names and every thing else that come with it. Villagers narrate their perception of cyclones of recent times “The cyclones were not as horrible as nowadays. There used to be 2 or 3 in a year, now there are continues, strong cyclones. The winds which flow earlier were balanced and favorable.” At this point film throws up four important issues of alarm: Increased Ferocity of Cyclones and Winds, increased erosion, loss of beaches, and Livelihoods in danger. All the four issues thrown up here are very dangerous for coastal people of India. After enumerating the four issues the film asks “The question is how rapidly and to what extend Climate Change will impact our Seas?” This way of questioning is end centered approach to climate crisis. The method of rising questions has to be changed. The effective question to ask here is when will the world would start de-industrializing, shut down its nuclear and thermal power plants and cease the warming up of planet earth? There is no thinking done on these lines as a result debate is moving in very depressing moment of letting the those truly responsible for global climate crisis go scot free. If the right questions like this were raised then there would have been massive mobilization in India and pressure mounted on those responsible to heat up the earth that is melting Antarctica’s ice. Several letters of protests would have been sent to the Embassies of so many countries engaging in heating up the planet Earth.
Four-fold attack on Coast
The film then sends out lone captions one by one four times. This is perhaps done after due filtering of wider issues surrounding Indian coast. The first danger presented as increased ferocity of cyclones and winds. The word ‘winds’ is covered with extraordinary significance of danger with red color fonts in the film. The second danger presented is increased erosions. The third danger is loss of Beaches. The fourth attack presented is livelihoods in danger. The assumption is no longer now whether there is change in climate or not. “The question is how rapidly and to what extend Climate Change will impact our seas” interrogation continues. Then the dusty film transcends national boundary and gets into global perspective of Climate Crisis with the tool of World Map. Then commentary begins: ‘Studies have indicated that we have lost 40% of the ice cover since 1980’s leading to increase in global temperatures. Film presents dusk on eroded beach and commentary continues: Sea levels world wide has witnessed rise by 3.5 millimeters annually since 1990s’. The focus now shifts on Antarctica on the map of Globe. A video of melting glaciers of Antarctica and commentary continues: ‘This will result in flooding of low-lying areas of coastline. There may be increase in intensity and frequency of cyclones in future’. Film has still not taken definitive stance on likelihood of increase in intensity and frequency of cyclones in future and is marked with ‘may be’. That marks recognition of unpredictability of whether conditions and its acknowledgement by the Film.
Film cites the India Country Study prepared in 1995 by Ministry of Environment and Forest that presents likely reality of rise in Sea level could put 7.1 million people into displacement. Film then draws its own conclusion: ‘It could push traditional fishing communities to the fringes of survival’. This is a most likely scene of the future considering that coastal communities are hardly grappling with the Climate Crisis issues and when it actually hits it may be too late to turn around the tide. Film assesses current state of India’s beaches with the support of a recent study that is not named yet its findings presented. It claims “according to recent report 1,500 kms of beach in India is eroded to various degrees. This is almost 25% of India’s shoreline”. One wonders as when such a massive claims are made what is the reason for which study has been kept without naming thereby causing one of the major breaches of the credibility of this film that is otherwise grounded in research. Erosion of 1,500 kms of beach on India’s shoreline is attributed to various factors such as Thermal Power Plants, Ports, Harbours, Sea Walls, Breakwaters and Sand mining. Climate Crisis can find these already existing factors as an appetizer in order to place its prey as the Sea Water level rises and cyclones increase in intensity and frequency.
Ponderings based on Puducherry coast
Film now gets its focus on Puducherry, a Union Territory that was earlier known as Pondicherry was a French colony in India on the East coast of India like Goa that was Portuguese Colony on the West Coast of India. Coastal Management Consultant associated with an organization PondyCAN Aurofilio Schiawina is interviewed here. He is presented saying “We at Puducherry has been documenting the change in Pondicherry and neighboring Tamil Nadu coast. One thing that is distinct is shoreline is changing due to man made factors. Harbour was built in 1989. Coastline changed; harbor blocked sand. There is no renewal of sand. Erosion knows no boundary. It does not know that it has stop at Ponycherry boundary and that it cannot move into neighboring state” Maps and data is shown existing on the laptop screen in the office of Aurofilio Schiawina. There is hardly anything to dispute with his findings. The point that Schiawina is making is that construction of Harbour in 1989 has created blockade for the flow of sand on the entire stretch of Tamil Nadu Coast. The sand was blocked from moving from one side of the Harbour to the next. This led to the disruptive erosion on the coast of Pondicherry and part of Tamilnadu.
Immediately Probir Banerjee, President of PondyCAN appears on screen to speak out “Our study has shown that erosion has been taking place at the rate of more than one meter per day just in Pondicherry coastline of 24 kms.” The commentary then continues “One can imagine the extend of land loss taking place all over the Indian Coast.” Probir Banerjee’s findings points to a type of reality that indicate India’s coast is on fire and is losing land for Sea level rise at the rate of more than one meter per day. And yet there is hardly any deeper level awareness amongst public. This film is a welcome step to awaken public consciousness into action on time.
Probir Banerjee is further quoted pointing that “Every State is busy granting permissions for the constructions of Ports and Harbors without taking national perspective on board with regard to demand for Ports. Unless you match the existing land with various demands you cannot get right picture”. This is a very important input to the film. Further it may be added that expansion of existing Ports and setting up of Marinas is also a matter of deep concern in Indian coast as evident from the State of Goa. These developments are taking place not because of local demands but global demands of super rich and International military-industrial-political complex leading to backward insertion of State of Goa into Global War Economy with Goa designating as Rest And Recreation (R-N-R) destination of International warships.
Onto Mumbai Fishing Coast
After the Eastern Coast film then shifts its focus on the West coast of India. It focus is largely Maharashtra coast with Mumbai that has been historically important city. Film narrates that “Mumbai has 32 fishing villages”. After this statement of survey the next statement is of crisis: “India’s largest slum Dharavi is located in Koli fishing village. Fishing community in Mumbai has been pushed to the fringe by Real Estate Invasion, Pollution and Shrinking of their areas. There is added threat of Climate Change”. Dr.V.V.Singh Principal Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Mumbai is introduced in the film. He has mapped the Mumbai Coast divided the coast into three colors depending on the impact of Sea level rise. The three color codes used are Red, Blue and White.
Next presented is the footage of fisher people meeting with the authorities at Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC). It has been narrated that various fishing villages are waging their struggle for space. And from the one fisher delegate tell the authorities “There are over two lakh fish workers in Mumbai. BMC has turned our Seas into dumping yards.” Another fish worker speaks out on reality “In Sion, Koliwada land was given to them to resettle and another piece of land for creating educational institutions but nothing was built”. Third fish worker without name - as per the dominant practice followed in this film - speaks out “People encroach on our land, destroy our ecology and livelihoods and make bogus complaints about us and demolish our houses.” The fourth fish worker spoke out “We are not against development but you should win our trust when you do development.” So here we have mockery of all the government propaganda of inclusive development. The reality of promise and the betrayal is not new anywhere in the country. This has been common practice followed de facto. The point is how to launch sufficient impetus to change this thought pattern and action pattern to move on with collective program to transcend all these blocks.
Anil Choudary, Advisor, Satpati Macchimar Vividh Karyakari Sahakar Society Ltd is presented in the film. Satpati struggles with developmental threats already as has been disclosed by Anil Choudary. “Stonewall was made 10 years back when there was erosion due to rise in Sea water. You can see next to stonewall how much has eroded from here. Almost 50 feet to 60 feet has eroded. From June to October the direction of the waves changes, and eroded sand gets into the creek.” The pictures of eroded shores are included in film and also the growth of mangroves on the accumulated sand. Anil Choudary observes again, “25 years back there were no mangroves here and it has now spread another 500 meters.” This is an interesting issue on sand erosion and the history of mangrove growth. In Goa ecological history of Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary also has its origin in abandonment of agriculture in reclaimed lands in Mondovi River. Abandonment of agriculture gave rise to mangroves. Thick growth of mangroves gradually attracted birds. Forest department then declared it as Bird Sanctuary few decades ago.
Then Dr.V.V.Singh Principal Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Mumbai comes back second time with a pertinent observation, “There is natural as well as man made sediment flow which affect the coastline changes.” These changes then lay initial conditions for intense coastal crisis.
Micro observations from the fisher peoples’ organization intersperses here with activist critical input. Ujjwala J. Patil, Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samitti is interviewed to get the grasp of happenings on ground. She spoke in Marathi facilitated by English subtitles. “Lots of fish used to be dried here but because of erosion, the sand has gone into the Sea. The next step will be when all these houses will get washed away too.”
The film discloses that release of waste from industry and consumer goods creates pollution as they eventually flows into Ocean. Film then moves into the world of statistics. It discloses that 250 million people live close to coastal areas in India. 5.5 million liters of waste water is released into the Sea every day. This leads to pollution of coastal ecosystem a real menace.
Beach scene returns to the film so often. This time three fishermen are on the fishing boat answering to the camera. “All waste in Mumbai is dumped by Municipality near the Sea. All this flows into the Sea and harms our nets.” There are vivid pictures of plastic garbage floating in the Sea. The next question shot at fishermen “How much waste?” the Answer comes from all three “Our boats are filled by waste and our whole day is spent in separating waste from the fishes.” Woman is shown separating waste from the fish spread on land. Fishermen point out the spoil fish “We put 3 to 4 nets and get very little fish. See, this is our last night catch, all the fish has turned black, has got spoiled. See this prawn, its all spoiled.” Even though this spoilage is taking place on daily basis there is no effective mechanism put in place with collaborating researchers or if there are such research collaborations it has not been reported in the film. This is an area that needs follow up post film scenario.
Next on the screen is Kiran Koli, Chairperson, Mumbai Unit of Maharashtra Macchimar Kriti Samitti “Water up to 10 nautical miles has been polluted. There is no ban on plastic here.” There is hardly any ban even on land. Very few places that is strictly following ban on plastic is Sikkim state of India that has banned plastics in its capital Gangtok. But is ban on plastics in Arabian Sea is a solution? If it is so then how does one enforce it? Or is ban on plastic production is better option? We need to wonder and come to conclusion very soon. And these wonderings needs to be with coastal people engaged in fishing as equally responsible partners. And this exercise needs to be carried on across Indian coast. The question is as to from where the leadership for this would come about?
Fisherman then speaks about erosion and sedimentation on the coast, “Earlier all our boats were kept here on the shore. Now we are unable to keep our boats here”. Parking of fishermen boast is does not bother as urgency for the State. While the anticipated parking space for pleasure boats of the Super rich has led Murmagao Port Trust (MPT), Goa to sign two lease deeds on October 12 and 14 both in 2010 to set up marinas in Zuari River which are prime fishing spaces of the local fishermen. It is not that state cannot take necessary steps to solve problems of coastal people; the point is that it is not pro-active on it. In fact in its approach it is anti-coastal people as evident from now scrapped Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) law that had provisions that could lead to real estate invasion of coast and even the Seas. The resistance was possible largely due to national mobilization of coastal people.
“The other thing is illegal sand mining going in this place” Points out nameless fisherman standing on the beach that has developed depth resembling well in the process of being dug. Besides illegal sand mining there is also “an increase of Sea level is also a reason for sand erosion here.” So there are multiple reasons already in place that is supplementing Global Climate crisis.
Women and threatened fishing Professions
“Now there is no space, so we don’t get any place to dry the fishes. Due to this, we are affected and the profession of our women has been destroyed.” If profession of women gets destroyed like this it could have severe consequences for the entire family and society for it denies women respect and dignity as well. There are scenes where the fish drying is done by hanging fish on the wooden sticks whereas traditional fish drying practice was to dry fish on the sand on beach. Film observes “economy of fishing families are affected negatively due to these reasons.”
Ujjwala J. Patil, Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samitti throws further light on the theme “From the time fish reaches the landing centre women take over the work. They segregate the fish, then dry it otherwise fish will get spoilt. They then will go to market and sell it.” One nameless female fish worker provides her perception here “Now there is less water in the Ocean, less fish. So if anything happens to our kids or if they are sick then who will look after them? Mosquitoes here have increased in this area and no one protects us in this condition.” This woman is concerned about not just about herself but also about her children, the next generation, and the future. It is her perception that water in the Ocean is less now. The challenge here is how to help her understand complex global dynamics of climate crisis and how she and her future has been jeopardized to do exploitative industrial production pattern pushing her and her community to the fringes. It is challenging that women like her to engage with in a discourse that will turn around her perception of ‘Ocean having less water now so less fish’ and transform into an agents of change. Hopefully public screening of this film in her village and other villages would trigger off necessary process.
Only if fishers were educated
Another fish worker shares his perception in the film “Yes, lots has changed in whether. There are stronger winds, there is rain also.” Film now gets into critical probe and gets interesting reply on cause of poor understanding of the fishermen “Because they are not well educated, they don’t understand, nor have they ever heard of ‘Climate Change’. They will only say ‘We just put our fish for drying and suddenly it started to rain!’ Who is responsible for keeping fishermen uneducated after 68 years of transfer of power from British rulers to Indian rulers? What the political parties have been doing after getting their votes from these fisher people for more than half century? The fruit of the Independence of India in 1947 is uneducated fisher people of its coast. It has been more like Law of Manu where education is denied to Shudras (slaves). Yet fishermen has vast knowledge accumulations over past so many generations, knowledge of fish, waves, currents, winds, torrents, storms, shore and diverse interactions on it.
One more Fisherman explains the scandal in Sea “Most probably there is scarcity of fish in the Ocean. So when boats go in nearby areas they don’t find any fish there. So the fisher folks are now sitting idle in their homes.” So when people sit idle most probable they will be gripped with depressions and frustrations. This may result in suicides or path of revolutions. Indian State is not scared of suicides as evident from farmers’ suicides in different parts of India like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra over past few decades. However Indian State is worried on politicization of masses much beyond fishermen and is putting in place surveillance mechanism like Aadhaar Card, Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), High Security Number Plates, High Security systems with CCTV cameras in Schools, Beaches, Public Transport systems like Newly introduced batch of Kadamba buses in Goa, High surveillance security systems called smart cities, The Human DNA Profile Bill 2015 pending in Parliament and so many other repressive mechanisms including annual 15 lakhs killing of children in Indian that are camouflaged as deaths of children of ST, SC and OBC emanating from malnutrition.
So the cycle that is presented in the film is ‘Less Catch’ results in ‘Low Income’. Few fish species like White Fish, Hilsa Toil, Pellone, Milkshark and Sawfish are listed as vanished species. Fisherman then presented speaking on this topic, “The fishes which are not there nowadays are Hilsa, Salmon, Silver bar Fish”. Anther fishermen then interspersed “Silver bar fish is also not seen nowadays: very rarely seen, like they don’t exist anymore”. And yet one more fisherman quips to confirm “So many fishes have either vanished or depleted. New Fish species has come about due to Climatic Condition.” Still fourth nameless fisherman is included to further hammer the point of fish depletion in the film “There are lots of changes in this profession; earlier we used to return in 3-4 days, now we return in 10-12 days, sometimes even 15 days. New fishes are present at large distance.”
Film observes “irreversible decline of Indian Coast due to developmental activities as well as Climate Change processes…Communities that rely on natural resources are always vulnerable more so in future when Climate Change index is expected to intensify”. Both these statements are true. However film exclude tourism related invasion of Indian coast to set up starred hotels, Golf Courses, Marinas, etc by moneyed interests. This form of development is starkly visible in the State of Goa. There are also even more dangerous reports setting up nuclear power plants on coasts of India and release of nuclear waste in Arabian Sea. Goa is sandwiched between two nuclear power Plants one in North at Jaitapur, Maharshtra and another at South at Karwar. Absence of discussions of these aspects is very dangerous.
Film raises important question: Can Climate Change be viewed as stand alone issue isolated from already existing issues in fisheries sector? Dr.V.V.Singh Principal Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Mumbai is summoned yet again. He seeks to answer “Maximum impact is by overfishing, followed by pollution, habitat degradation, and Climatic Change is last one. In the years to come Climate Change is going to be major problem to tackle it. Right now we do not have quick-fix solutions for it.”
Then one nameless fisherman speaks to camera with good deal of confidence “We fishermen protect this whole coastline and government must be thankful to us.” Only if this fisherman knew the origin of the word ‘government’ he would have different take. It is clear that no one explained to him that the word ‘Government’ has its origin in two Latin words ‘Guverno’ that mean ‘to control’ and ‘Mentis’ that means ‘mind’, and Government therefore in most true sense is mechanism for mind control.
Probir Banerjee, President of PondyCAN makes a comeback after a gap with precise comment “Once ecology is damaged, how you reverse the process – livelihoods have been lost and People have been displaced. What happens to those people? How do you, you may talk of rehabilitation, you may talk of compensation, what happens to People? They become refugees, Environmental Refugees.” Banerjee’s statement is true not only for coast but also for Goa’s hinterland open cast mining that has reduced Goa into land of ecological refugees.
Film then discusses government report ‘National Action Plan 2008’ that outlines existing and future mitigation and adaptation program. “It does not specifically address problems of Indian Coastal system. The Technical issues of Climate Change received great attention while socio-economic concerns remained largely unaddressed”.
Satish Shenoy, INOIS, Hyderabad comments on current state of affairs “Right now all studies are at government level or policy level. I don’t think we are penetrating down to fish workers but we have to develop that mechanism”. The prevailing notion as evident from Shenoy’s comment is hierarchical: Scientists are up and Fishermen are down. One is reminded of the Brahmanical law of Manu and its hierarchical gradation of people and privileges.
Dr.V.V.Singh Principal Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Mumbai is more respectful of fisher people. He comments “Fishermen has great knowledge. Any mitigation or rehabilitation of fishermen cannot be done without support, co-operation and active involvement”. From his comment rehabilitation is inevitable. So fishermen all over Indian coast had to find new homes. The search must start now. Has it started? In Goa this is not the case. On the contrary high altitude plateaus are dished out to various avoidable interests like Mopa for new Greenfield Airport, Golf Course cum luxury hotels in Tiracol, Handing over of Quittol plateau to Indian Air force, Plateaus has also been handed over for industrial estates, IT parks, Mining, SEZ etc. Where Goa’s coastal people going to be rehabilitated? Goa has coastline of 105 kms.
Now there is lone fish worker in film with name ‘Simon’ from Mumbai and yet without surname speaks out “We see weather and can predict. If it will be stormy or not when we go out; we can predict to a certain degree”.
Ujjwala J. Patil, Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samitti expands the scope far beyond fish workers “Fishing does not just feed only the fishermen, it feeds many more”. Probir Banerjee, President of PondyCAN attempts to plunge into future for Fishermen “What will fishermen do next, Can they became masons, carpenters or whatever?” The elderly female fish worker proves Probir Bannerjee has probed correctly. She comments “The biggest thing is, what will the next generation do?” This film advocate that attention be given to traditional fishing before Climate Change becomes anther area of concern. Film observes that in addition to overfishing, pollution, habitat degradation and competing interests from industry push towards inundation of coastline will increase vulnerability of traditional fishermen.
Preserve and Celebrate
This dusty film has fought all the temptation to be the film of doom and despair but instead has come to a rather surprising conclusion. Its concluding statement is full of hope and even calls for celebration. Film has this very remarkable concluding comment “Traditional Fishermen in One Billion population country to have four million plus fishing community that sustains itself by low footprints, traditional yet renewable reserves; it is a treasure that needs to be preserved and celebrated.” This conclusion deserves to be discussed for it is potent with diverse possibilities for Indian Coast and needs further extrapolation. The beauty of this film is that in spite of keeping fisher people nameless it still succeeds in generating waves of hope, an igniting of imagination and direct intervention on the Indian Coast. The film hints at celebration of life on coast that also includes various fishing related occupations and pre-occupations combine. This call to celebrate is single most powerful strength of this film that could trigger off something big. It calls to reverse our in-fashion understanding of traditional as essentially bad and backward. The film has given recognition and validity to what is known as traditional fishing and its practitioners. For intellectuals this conclusion has posed hue challenge to explain to the traditional fishing community the meaning of the word ‘footprints’. Film is excellent recipe for People-Intellectual collaboration.
Rayson K. Alex, who suggested and shared this film with me,
Maggie Silveira, my wife who helped me to follow through this paper.