n estimated 3.25 lakh fishermen living in 133 hamlets in Visakhapatnam district are seething with anger due to dwindling catch and marine pollution causing fish-kill.

There is phenomenal increase in incidents of fish-kill as well as fishing areas becoming ‘dead zones’ due to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation leading to less extent of fishing area in the territorial waters within two km area from the shore and discharge of sewage by GVMC and effluents by the industries.
The number of fishing days has been reduced to 270 in a year on account of annual fishing holiday and formation of various systems in the Bay. In reality, fishermen just have 120 fishing days.

The sea used to be very clean two decades ago. Now it is muddy due to changing climate and rise in industrial pollution. According to unofficial estimates fish catch has come down from 1.35 lakh tonne per annum 15 to 20 years ago to 85,000 tonne. Overexploitation following increase in number of boats is also said to be one of the factors for falling catch.

Enquiries with GVMC have revealed that the city is generating an estimated 220 million gallons per day of sewage (170 in 2001) of which 96 MLD of ‘treated’ sewage is discharged into sea.

The rest goes into the sea through storm water drainage without any treatment. GVMC is building a sewage treatment plant at Narava with a capacity of 104 MLD.

An official of AP Pollution Control Board has said 425 MLD water used by various industries is discharged into sea through pipelines in addition to five MLD of industrial effluents under its ‘vigilant eye’. “Guard ponds (where testing is done to ensure compliance to emission standards), are being set up for RINL and HPCL which discharge an estimated six MLD of effluents, by December 31 as per the directive of Central Pollution Control Board,” he says.

Fishermen say due to NTPC Simhadri, Pharma City and other industries, 30-km area near Mutyalammapalem and Tikkavanipalem has become a dead zone for fishing. Similarly, due to steel plant and a private power plant, Appikonda, which used to be a major fishing landing centre, has become a dead zone.

“Pudimadaka, which has a population of 15,000, used to be a major hub for fishing a decade ago. Now fishermen here are struggling to meet their both ends meet after Brandix India Apparel City laid a pipeline into the sea to discharge the effluents by the garment plants that came at Atchutapuram,” says Arjili Dasu, a fishermen activist.

Former IAS officer and social activist E.A.S. Sarma says: “Visakhapatnam’s coastline sustains the livelihood of thousands of traditional fisherfolk, dependent on it for generations. Of late, despite rigorous environment laws in force, due to official apathy and connivance, the laws are violated and industries cause toxic pollution and other commercial establishments let out untreated sewage effluents.”

Shrinking shoreline a cause for concern

The coastline in Visakhapatnam district has effectively come down from 136 to 66 km due to establishment of various projects either on the shore or nearer to it.
Some of the major projects which have become operational on the coastline include NTPC Simhadri Super Thermal Power Project, Hinduja National Power Corporation, Brandix India Apparel City, Naval Alternative Operations Base, Hetero Drugs and a string of hatcheries in and around Payakaraopeta.
The shoreline has also shrunk by half a km, which experts from National Institute of Oceanography attribute to coastal erosion, massive constructions on the beach road as part of concrete jungle culture.
“We used to capture fish 50 to 60 metres from shore and now we have to go deep,” says Ch. Satyanarayana Murthy, a boat owner from Visakhapatnam.