Centre mulls Fishermen Rights Act for coastal areas

Bhubaneswar: Like Forest Rights Act safeguards rights of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers over land and other resources, a similar law is being envisaged for the fishermen community by the Center.

For this, the federal government has sought views and suggestions from the state governments and stakeholders following which legislation would be brought in the Parliament.

The new draft proposal known as the Traditional Coastal and Marine Fisherfolk (Protection of Rights) Act aims at benefiting fishermen and other traditional communities living on the coast and using the resources of sea for their livelihood.

As per the proposals:

•    A fisherman would have the right to possess land and build habitations near the coast.
•    Rights over fish and other products of water bodies.
•    In case of relocation, the affected persons will be resettled at some other place.

On January 6, Centre notified a revised set of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) guidelines that will regulate all activities within the first 500m of land from the coast and also in the entire territorial waters, extending up to 12 nautical miles, from the coastline.

After incorporating suggestions received from the respective state governments, final draft legislation would be presented to the Cabinet for approval prior to being tabled as a Bill in Parliament.

The proposed legislation would ensure that the fishing communities and other traditional dwellers who have been living in the coastal areas for long and depend on the sea for their livelihood are treated differently from outsiders under the strict CRZ regulations.

This apart, the fishing community members would be eligible to be members in the district costal regulation zone. 

“The proposed Act has been made pro-people and there are no restrictions for local fishermen community,” Director Environment Department Bhagirathi Behera said.

The need for establishing and protecting the rights of fishing communities has become important in view of the government’s initiatives to strengthen the regulation of construction or industrial activity in the coastal areas with the aim of protecting these ecologically fragile zones.

Meanwhile, the Orissa government has expressed favourable views to the Centre on the proposed Fishermen Rights Act. With the Act coming into force, around 20 lakh fisher folks would be benefited. It may be noted here that Orissa has a coastline of around 480 km.

“If we are allowed to venture deep into the sea then the catch would be more,” a fisherman Somesh Rao said.

“It is a welcome step. With this, the financial status of the community would improve,” Secretary Fishermen Cooperative Samiti Babuli Prasad said.

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