Hundreds of fishermen who venture into the sea daily in 1,000-odd boats from Neendakara and Sakthikulangara harbour in Kollam have been engaged in an unique exercise for two years.
In addition to fish, they are bringing back from the sea large quantities of plastic waste that gets entangled in their fishing nets.
Since November 2017, around 40 tonnes of plastic waste collected by fishers from the sea under the ‘Suchitwa Sagaram’ (Clean Seas), a government-backed initiative kicked off under Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma, have reached the coast in the netted marine litter bags provided to them.
The project is being executed by the Department of Harbour Engineering for the Fisheries Department.
The plastic waste, 15 kg to 60 kg on an average in a litter bag, that the fishers hand over is sorted, cleaned, and dried at the wharf by a contingent of 25 trained women handpicked from the local fishing community. The cleaned and dried carry bags are shredded in a unit set up at Neendakara.
Carry bags in different hues and sizes, plastic bottles, plastic ropes, nylon nets and other forms of discarded plastics form the major chunk of the plastic waste that reaches the shoreline. The marine netted litter bag is handed over with a token number to each boat from the harbour before they set sail.
“Till May this year, we handed over 7,355 bags to the fishers and they returned 5,611 bags with plastic waste. In May this year, we gave 420 litter bags and 335 bags were returned. The project is a big success and fishers are extending all support to protect the marine environment and to sustain their livelihood. The fishers are aware of the threat to the environment,” says K. Vijayakumar, supervisor.
Shredded plastic in the form of granules is sold to Clean Kerala Company (CKS) and it goes into laying of roads of the Public Works Department and the local bodies across the State.
“The granules are sold at ₹22 per kg. We have a stock of 21 tonnes of shredded plastic now,” adds Mr. Vijayakumar.
Suchitwa Sagaram is now set to be extended to other fishing harbours.