Slow Fish in Action
Mangroves, Education and Health in Tamil Nadu
Our Slow Fish partner in Tamil Nadu increases activities to enhance community awareness and well-being...
The Palk Bay Centre in Tamil Nadu, the most southeastern province of India, was inaugurated in the village of Velivayal in 2011. The center was founded by the OMCAR Foundation, which, through its director Dr V. Balaji, is part of the Slow Fish network. Today it is a fully functioning platform developing a large array of activities and programs to enhance the resilience of local communities and promote local sustainable development. The activities include environmental education programs for school children, coastal ecosystem field research training programs, disaster management training in coastal villages and alternative livelihood training programs for fisher women groups. These activities are designed for all ages, families, marginalized groups, fishers and farmers.
This year, it is focusing on a yearlong survey to understand and document the artisanal and traditional fishing techniques of local villagers: Most local fishers still use traditional methods such as using wooden canoes, pot fishing and sail bait fishing. They also harvest the shrimps in the mangroves by hand.
The center has also been working closely with local schools and has already reached more than 2500 students this year, educating them on the importance of sustainable fishing and local marine diversity. In addition, 1000 Slow Fish posters were printed and distributed to schools, government buildings and public spaces with a message from local fishermen stating: "Catch only big fish without fish eggs and young fishes to protect our fishery resources". This poster project was created following a discussion that took place during Slow Fish 2013, held in Genoa, Italy.
Parallel to public education on sustainable fishing, the center has been conducting research on local sea grass beds that are a feeding ground for the local dugong population. Since 2012, more than 210 km2 have been surveyed using acoustic video and scuba ground truthing techniques. The findings are now being shared with local communities to further understand the environment and together implement restoration and conservation measures.
A free medical camp for the people of five surrounding villages was also established at the center. 150 people from local fishing and farming villages have benefited from the free service, organized in partnership Marine Police Department.
Earlier this year, Dr. V. Balaji, the director of OMCAR Foundation, received the well deserved 2014 State Government Environment Award for his long-term contribution for marine and coastal ecosystem conservation in Palk Bay. May his work continue for many, many years.