Conflict resolved

Encroachers to be evicted from Jambudwip, but allowed to fish for four months

By Arunayan Sharma
Published: Monday 30 September 2002

finally a balance seems to have been struck between wildlife conservation and the livelihood issue of fisherfolk in the Jambudwip islands of the Sunderbans region in West Bengal.

As per the settlement, all the fisherfolk who have encroached upon land on the creeks of the mangrove reserve forests in the island will be evicted by the end of September in deference to the Supreme Court (sc) order. But they will be allowed to fish at a 350 hectare river island in Jambudwip between October and February, when the water levels recede. The island is under water for the rest of the year.

The pact was sealed after West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya intervened in the dispute between the forests and fisheries ministries. The two were at loggerheads over the eviction of the 15,000 fisherfolk from the island.

While state forests minister Jogesh Burman wanted the fishing community of the region to vacate the tract, fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda opposed the move. He contended that eviction would affect the livelihood of the fisherfolk. Enraged over the non-compliance of the directive, Burman even issued shoot-at-sight orders against community members who entered the Jambudwip island.

Though the fisheries and forests ministers agree upon the issue of encroachment and permanent settlement, they do not see eye to eye on fishing rights. The fisheries minister maintained that the Supreme Court had not banned fishing in the Jambudwip island. The forests ministry, on its part, claimed that that it was following the court directive to evict fisherfolk from the island. The storm appears to have blown over for now.

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