Sal navigation problem: Hopes pinned on CM

When Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar visited Cutbona fishing jetty last week with Fisheries minister Avertano Furtado and Velim MLA Benjamin D’Silva in tow to seek first-hand information on the seizure of Karnataka fishing vessels, he came across boat owners pleading for a permanent solution to the navigational hazards plaguing the mouth of River Sal at Betul.

The issue wasn’t new to the Chief Minister, with Parrikar insisting that the government had tendered dredging work of the mouth. The CM even went to the extent of reassuring the boat owners that government would issue directions to the contractor to lift away the silt dredged from the mouth.

But boat owners are looking forward to a permanent solution to the problem. They explained to the CM how the river mouth plays havoc with the fishing industry for want of a permanent mechanism in place. They contended that dredging of the river mouth only provided a temporary reprieve.

Says President of Cutbona Boat Owners Union, Patrick D’Silva: “The government should work out a long-term solution to the issue from the security point of view. How will the patrol and fishing boats docked at the Cutbona or Betul jetties go after the alien fishing vessels when boats cannot venture out in the sea due to adverse navigation conditions”.

He called for a permanent project on the lines of the fishing harbour at Malpei for permanent solution to the problem.

Says Parrikar: I have invited a delegation of Cutbona boat owners for discussions. Government will try to work out a lasting solution to the navigational hazards at the river mouth”.

In the past, the Directorate of Fisheries had roped in a consultant from West Bengal to suggest measures to ensure a smooth navigation channel at the River Sal mouth. Though the consultant, sources said, has mooted construction of a retaining wall at the mouth extending down seawards, the directorate is yet to take a call on the proposal.

Says Fisheries Minister, Avertano Furtado: “I will look into the proposal mooted by the West Bengal consultant. The government will discuss the issue threadbare before taking a final decision”. [H]