Concern for environment, social health and human rights

Coastal Communities

The coastal land and waters are of immense ecological significance. The far largest share of marine biodiversity is associated with the sea bed, especially on the continental shelves and upwellings near the coast. The primary and most important fishing grounds in the World are found on and along continental shelves within less than 200 nautical miles of the shores. More than half of the marine fish catch comes from within 100 km of the coast with depths generally less than 200m covering an area of less than 10% of the world’s oceans.
It has been estimated that overall, seafood provides more than 2.6 billion people with at least 20 per cent of their average per capita animal protein intake.

In recent times, when the amount of noxious waste produced by humans has exceeded all known precedents, the coastal waters have been turned into the largest sink for such waste.

The impact is disastrous. This great storehouse of life, livelihood and food of our planet is dying. The number of dead zones (oxygen bereft areas) in world’s oceans has exceeded 200 in the year 2006 by an UNEP estimate.

The 7,600 km coastal stretch of our country harbours one of the richest range of flora and fauna. Mangroves, forests, estuarine delta, coral reefs, wide stretches of sandy beach and rocky shores have made our coast one with the most diverse physical environment hosting some of the richest fisheries of the world.

But today, our waters and coastal resources are subjected to massive destruction. Innumerable beach resorts, hotels, mines, industries, nuclear and thermal power plants, hazardous chemical plants and hubs, industrial aquaculture, special economic zones (SEZs), special tourism zones (STZs), expanding coastal towns, cities, ports and harbours, ill-conceived mega projects (e.g. Sethusamudram Shipping Canal, Kalpsar Yojana etc.), rampant reclamation, large scale mechanized and destructive fishing, are threatening our coastal environment, marine resources and traditional livelihood. The sea has become the dumping ground of all sorts of toxic wastes and pollutants.

DISHA, as an environmentally committed citizens’ group, recognizes that the coastal zone is the most important ecological interface between land and water and works for its conservation and sustainable use.,

DISHA strives to intervene effectively in preparation, analyses, amending and implementation of policies on coastal and marine issues through policy documents, public discussions, protests and group formation at grass root level.

DISHA supports the banning of micro-mesh (mosquito) nets and juvenile Hilsa catch,no fishing period, restrictions over trawling and other destructive fishing gears and actively campaigns for the implementation of such measures.

DISHA opposes industrial aquaculture that has disastrous effects on coastal land and waters.

DISHA opposes the policy of excluding local communities, especially the fishworkers, from the process of introduction and management of coastal protected areas including the Sunderban and stands for protection of the livelihood rights of traditional fishers.

DISHA has played a major role in preparation of Statement[STATEMENT: Issued by National Consultation on Impending Threat to the Coastal Zone, Chennai, 11 June 2007. English & Bengali], meetingprotest lettersonline petitions,critique on the Draft Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) Notification 2008 brought in by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to replace the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZ) 1991. DISHA, along with National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) and other like-minded groups, has exposed that this draft CMZ is aimed at further opening up of our coasts to commercial plunder. DISHA has organized and participated in a number of meetings and consultations all over the country to build up a campaign against the Draft CMZ Notification.

DISHA initiated a network and helped to trigger off a movement against the proposed five star mega tourism project in the Sunderban by SAHARA group. The project was eventually dropped in 2004 (Sahara protest letter and report of citizens’ consultation.)

DISHA has launched a campaign against the massive coastal encroachments and destruction of coastal vegetation and sand dunes by unscrupulous businessmen at Mandarmani. DISHA has moved the High Court at Kolkata through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for immediately stopping such activities (see Mandarmoni Report and Mandarmoni An Update) . The High Court, upholding DISHA’s petition, has recommended action according to law. But the order stands unimplemented. A contempt petition has been moved in this regard.

DISHA has joined the civil society campaign against the proposed Chemical Hub at Nayachar, an estuarine island. The proposed chemical hub, if materialised, will spell disaster for the estuarine coastal waters and associated ecosystems (see Nayachar protest letter)

DISHA, in working with the coastal fishers and fishworkers, focusses on the following:

  • Capacity Building of Traditional Fishworkers for Environmental Stewardship of the Coast
  • Support on Rights and Livelihood Issues
  • Alternative Livelihood Generation

DISHA supports the traditional eco-friendly sustainable livelihood practices of indigenous people and works for their protection.

DISHA strives to organize, involve and support the traditional fishing community, the largest stakeholder in the coastal zone both in number and in environmental concerns, towards a sustainable synthesis of coastal ecology and traditional livelihood practices.

DISHA launched a civil society campaign against the eviction of more than 18,000 fisher people from livelihood options secured through age long practice of seasonal drying of marine fish in the estuarine island of Jambudwip in West Bengal (Jambudwip Report)

DISHA collaborates with National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), the federation of traditional Indian coastal fishworkers, in organizing coastal awareness campaign “SAVE WATER – SAVE COAST – SAVE COASTAL PEOPLE”.

DISHA organises workshops, audio-visual shows, group meetings with the coastal fishworkers of the country in general and in the three coastal states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal in particular, on environmental, rights and livelihood issues (Report on Activities)

DISHA has provided continuous support in the form of policy inputs, arrangement of logistics and documentation to the recently concluded NFF campaign “Save The Coast – Save The Fishers” starting from Kutch in Gujarat to the Sunderban in West Bengal that covered 7,600 kilometers of coastal stretch spread over nine coastal states and four coastal union territories 11.

DISHA, in collaboration with Center for Education and Communication, Delhi and NFF has organized seminars on the ‘ILO convention on the work in fishing’ for the coastal fishworkers of India in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Orissa and West Bengal (see Consolidated Report Consultations on ILO Convention)

DISHA has conducted a Rights Study on the coastal Fishworkers of East Medinipur (see Fishworkers’ Rights Study E. Medinipur).

DISHA conducted a baseline study of Corporate Abuse in the Sunderban and is presently conducting a study on Problems of Traditional Fishers in the Sunderban Protected Area (see Corporate Abuse in Sunderban.)

DISHA conducted a study in 2009 on the livelihood problems of traditional fishers in the protected area – Sundarban Tiger Reserve. In this regard also see the Statement of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) at 11th Conference of Parties (COP) at Hyderabad 2012.

Disha prepared a report on business prospects of cooperatives of small scalea marine fishers in West Bengal. See BUSINESS PROSPECTS OF COOPERATIVES OF SMALL SCALE MARINE FISHERS IN WEST BENGAL A STUDY.

Disha has prepared a report on the problems and prospects of Hilsa conservation in West Bengal. See HILSA CONSERVATION IN WEST BENGAL: A BRIEF STUDY.

DISHA conducts seminars, workshops, citizens’ meetings on coastal issues.

DISHA takes special efforts in sensitizing the coastal communities along with the students in the coastal regions.

DISHA produces awareness materials – pamphlets, leaflets, posters, banners etc. and use those to support campaigns launched by it and other organisations.