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Tajpur Deep Sea Port Stirs Trouble for Bengal's Coastal People

More than lakhs of fishermen are regularly attached to the fishing harbours in the proposed port area.

Tajpur: Subal Khalua (59), a fisherman by profession and caste, is a resident of Tajpur, located approximately 172 kilometres from the capital city of Kolkata on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal. The development of the ambitious Tajpur port has made Subal Khalua a worried man.

He owns about 3.5 bighas of waterbody in the vicinity of the coastline on the brackish waters, where he has been cultivating fish for the last 40 years. He also owns a house in the nearby Jaldah area. His father purchased the 3.5 bighas of land 40 years ago and handed it over to young Subal for fish cultivation. Since then, he has been involved in fish cultivation at Tajpur and owned an ocean-going small fishing boat at one point. His son, too, is a fisherman by profession.

Now Khalua's worry stems from the fact that the West Bengal government has handed over both patta lands and rayati lands of the area to the Adani group for building a deep sea port, which covers about 12,000 acres of land along the fishing harbours in the area. The port is located near Tajpur in the Purba Medinipur district, about 200 km from Kolkata. It will have a deep draft of 12.1 meters and a channel length of 18 kilometres. This draft will allow the port to accommodate large Capesize ships, which are the largest class of dry tonnage (DWT) cargo vessels.

A tidal support of 3.9 metres gives a net draft of 16 metres. According to estimates of an official of the state government, the port will create direct employment opportunities for 25,000 people and around one lakh indirect jobs.


Subal Khalua

Subal Khalua told NewsClick that in the fishing harbour (khuti) in Tajpur area, about 10,000 people are directly associated with the fishing trade. This deep sea port will spell doomsday for the entire fishing village of Tajpur, he claimed. 

"After the advent of tourism in the area, now about one decimal of land in Tajpur area fetches about Rs 3 lakhs, and we don’t know when our land will be thrown into No 1 khatian of the government ('No 1 khatian' indicates land acquisition by the government)," he said. "For years, we have stayed here fighting it out in the sea waters in the coastline of West Bengal. Now suddenly, we are losing our lands to the whims of the Mamata Banerjee government. We will not let our lands be taken to the No 1 khatian in this manner," he added and pointed out that many have started moving to the court to get redressal in this matter.

He said that the locals also met with the nephew of one elderly woman Ghanshyamali Das, whose prime land in the Tajpur beach has been taken over by the government, and a Biswa Bangla insignia has been put over it.

Khalua also said that from Tajpur to Junput on the eastern coast, there are 22 fishing harbours (khuti), and about 2 lakh fishermen and fish traders are directly dependent on it for their living. 

In the proposed port area, there are Tajpur Shankarpur, Jaldah, Mandarmani (Dadanpatrabhar), Kharpai, Shoula Chemasuli, and Junput khuti. More than lakhs of fishermen are regularly attached to these fishing harbours. Some are using this land for drying fish, which is then sent to different parts of the country, especially to Assam from this location. 

“Crores of rupees are earned and change hand every day in this trade in the vibrant khutis of the region. With the one stroke of a pen, all our livelihoods cannot be gone,“ Khalua rued.

He also outlined that in the 25 coastal blocks of Eastern Medinipore district, nearly four lakh people are directly associated with the fish trade. An income of Rs 6 crores daily or Rs 180 crore monthly is generated from the fishing trade of the region in this district alone. Creating a deep sea port infrastructure is likely to become the source of tribulation for the fishing community and the fishing harbours.

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