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Tsunami washes away tourism, fishing industry

Thursday 6 January 2005, by MAGO*Chandrika

NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: Tourism is another industry which took a beating, with Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu the worst-hit. Most beach-side cottages in this coastal town were damaged. But tour operators point out that the bulk of beach tourism in India is on its western coast and that was, by and large, unaffected by the tsunami.

President of Indian Association of Tour Operators Subhash Goyal says, "The situation seems to be under control as no foreign tourist has died in India and none of the 400 charters from October to March has been cancelled."

In short, the main damage to the coastal economy is from the hit taken by the fishing industry.

Nearly half the country’s fish catch of about 60 lakh tonnes (2001-02 figures) is from the sea. Tamil Nadu accounts for nearly 4 lakh tonnes in marine landings a year, AP about 2.5 lakh tonnes and Kerala over 5 lakh tonnes.

"Overall production will be affected but it’s too early to say by how much. Fishermen will have to first be put back on their feet," says animal husbandry secretary P M A Hakeem. The estimates of damage are fluid, but here is one estimate from Tamil Nadu: 1.24 lakh houses, 373 villages, 23,000 catamarans, 8,500 vallams, 3,245 mechanised boats, 1,24,600 nets. And that’s about Rs 10,000 to Rs 40 lakh per boat and Rs 25,000 per fishing net.

That’s just one state. It’s the same story across coastal Andhra, Kerala and Pondicherry, where the wave swept up to 3 km inland. The Centre believes the "vast proportion" of boats damaged are traditional craft.

On top of individual losses, there’s damage to infrastructure.

(With inputs from Swati Das in Kanyakumari, T S Srinivasa Raghavan in Coimbatore ; Rajesh Chandramouli in Chennai)

See online : Times of India

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