Brookes students' salve for Penthakota fishermen

31 January 2010

Wooden catamarans at Puri

Wooden catamarans at Puri

The following press release appeared in the Times of India on 31st January, 2010. Puri: Penthakota fishermen facing the prospect of losing their lands to sea erosion have found an unlikely saviour in a group of foreign students. Fourteen students from Oxford Brookes University in England during a recent trip to the coastal hamlet pledged to help mitigate the resident's suffering with the help of a Delhi-based voluntary organization.

They have drawn up a list of recommendations to improve the fishermen's lifestyle as well as livelihood. "We would submit a report of our recommendations to the NGO that would communicate the suffering of the fishermen to the government. Besides our recommendation can be used as reference by others, including government organizations," Laura Howlett, one of the students said. The students from Oxford Brookes Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP) were in the region to study the Penthakosta fishing community and to learn about the their vulnerabilities and needs.

"The fishermen want to be relocated as the sea is fast eating away the shore, possibly due to the effect of climate change. Besides they need urgent attention regarding the better sanitation and supply of drinking water. Education is another area that needs to be taken care of. Besides their skills should be diversified so that they can eke out a living from other sources apart from fishing," Zeya Schindler, another student said. "The fishermen should be educated and trained to engage themselves in the tourist industry," said Srimanta Kumar Dash, president of the India Japan friendship Centre (Orisa branch), a voluntary organization that co-ordinated the interaction of foreign students with fishermen.

The fishermen were optimistic that the effort of the Brookes students would help abate their woes. "We have been seeking relocation because our lives are in jeopardy. Despite assurances from the government, we are yet to be shifted to safer locations, Atma Rao, a fisherman, said. The 40,000-strong fishing community have been living at Penthakosta for the last 50 years. In 2001, there was a proposal to set up a fishing harbour by relocating the fishermen to a safer place near Jagannath Sanskrit University, but the land was not allotted as it came under forest area. Now we are trying to find another land," a district official said.