The fishermen community belonging to different organisations in the state came together on Tuesday to protest against the proposed Merchant Shipping Corridor (MSC) along the coastal regions of the country, expected to paralyse the fishing industry in West Bengal as well.

The protesting fishermen, whose livelihood is mainly dependant on marine fish, demanded withdrawal of the MSC project of the central government, which is presently underway from the West Coast up to some distance beyond Kanyakumari.

The stretch meant only for merchant ships, however, is soon to be extended till the Eastern Coast, covering parts of West Bengal, including Tajpur in East Midnapore where mapping work has already been started.

According to members of the Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF), one of the major fishermen associations in the state, the proposed shipping corridor will mean confinement of fishing activities within 15 nautical miles or 27.78km from the coast. Beyond this stretch, the proposed corridor of 20 nautical miles or 37.04 km wide will be used by merchant ships only and fishing activities would be strictly prohibited.

As this part of the coastline harbours most of the marine fish of various edible species, the fishing industry along the corridor is expected to be affected badly. “The project will hit the livelihood of 1.4 lakh fishermen in the state who are fully dependent on this marine stretch for their livelihood,” said Milan Das, general secretary of DMF.

“The corridor if it materialises will also destroy the marine ecological balance in the Sunderbans, where lakhs of people are directly or indirectly dependent on this portion of the sea,” he added.

Underscoring how the development projects in the coastal areas are adversely affecting the fishermen, Debashish Shyamal, member of National Fishworkers’ Forum, said: “The development of a deep sea port at Tajpur, and other places under the Sagarmala Project, will mean that not only will the corridor be used by the ships, but also the inner coastline will be occupied with commercial activities. Such extensive industrial use of the part of the sea which accommodates the maximum percentage of useful marine organisms, will not only destroy the marine life but will also take away the livelihood of about 80 per cent of fishermen in the state and four crore fishermen along the MSC.”

“A letter has been sent to the Centre on 10 September and a memorandum has been filed with the state government today. However, the state government instead of solving our problems of livelihood is working in close association with the Centre.” The state fisheries minister denied getting any formal intimation on the issue.