Recent protests by villagers of Puddukottai, Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts in Tamil Nadu, against mushrooming shrimp farms near their settlements, have forced the state government to establish a high-powered committee to come up with regulatory safeguards for aquaculture enterprises. The committee comprises officials of the departments of revenue, fisheries, rural development and the state pollution control board as well as representatives of environmental groups and fisherfolk's organisations.
A review team of the committee toured Thanjavur district and listed the complaints of villagers and traditional fishermen against the new shrimp farms. The main grouse was that the shrimp farms often resorted to reckless dumping of sludge in inland areas. This, the locals felt, had resulted in the salination of freshwater resources.
"We have realised that the tension can easily yield to serious conflict if immediate checks and regulations are not introduced," says a senior official of department of fisheries who was member of the review team. The official pointed out that implementation of regulatory and environmental safety laws would be hindered as an estimated 40 per cent of the shrimp farms in Tamil Nadu, which are major contributors to contribute in a major way to the Rs 320 crore-worth of shrimp exports from that state, are unregistered with the authorities. The committee plans to finalise its regulatory scheme by December. A major recommendation of the panel is that the farms lower their annual produce by almost 30 per cent of present levels.
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