02/09/2005, 00.00
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Tamil Nadu fishermen ask state government for safe homes not far from the shore

In a letter to Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister, fishermen ask that homes not be built beyond 200 m from the sea; it would upset their lifestyle and economic future.

Chennai (AsiaNews) –Tamil Nadu fishermen voiced their concern in a letter to the authorities in which they made concrete proposals about post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The letter, sent to Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, calls on the government to ensure that they be able to live in safety but also continue working near the shore as they did in the past.

Although expressing gratitude towards the authorities, the fishermen who signed the letter also spoke of their unhappiness and puzzlement.

"There is a considerable amount of confusion prevailing in the minds of the fishing communities and other organizations involved in the rehabilitation," the letter read. "It appears that the Government is contemplating the relocating of all fishing villages in Tamil Nadu beyond 500 m from the high tide line."

The government does seem decided to ban construction in a 500 m zone along the shoreline.

For the fishermen, who suffered the heaviest losses in the tsunami, their communities should have the inalienable right to use the shore area (0-200 m) for fishing related activity (parking of boats, drying nets, drying fish, storing fishing accessories, etc.).

They should also get property rights for housing in a safe location beyond 200m which is proximate to the sea and suitable for carrying on their occupation.

And they should have the right to keep the earlier sites/shelters that belonged to them to safely house their fishing equipment.

Should the authorities opt for the 500 m limit, fishing communities would see their lives and their traditional economy upset since the inability to work by the shore would mean buying new equipment to transport and store the fish.

The letter also demands that "affected families be allowed to build their own homes in stages to ensure proper construction of the houses" with the government issuing the necessary "technical guidelines for the construction of safe houses that are appropriate from the point of seismic status, cyclone status, etc." and implementing mechanisms needed "to ensure that the guidelines are being adhered to."

Tamil Nadu is the worst-hit area in India accounting for most of the country's 16,389 dead and missing.

The latest death toll from the tsunami stands at 295,000 for all 11 affected countries.  Indonesia has by far suffered the most casualties: 241,687. The other are: Sri Lanka, 30,957; Thailand, 5,393; Somalia, 298; Maldives, 82; Malaysia, 68; Myanmar, 61; Tanzania, 10; Bangladesh, 2; Kenya, 1. (MA)

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See also
Fishermen most affected by the tsunami
After tsunami cynicism assails Christians, Muslims and Hindus
Religious and caste discrimination in government aid distribution in Tamil Nadu
Gilbert, a post-tsunami hero
Paris Club agrees to freeze Asian debt


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